INDONESIA: Travels and Trade-offs

INDONESIA: Travels and Trade-offs

smallFrom the window, I can hear high-pitched giggles and the sound of wellington boots on garden path gravel.

My daughter is next door with her new neighbor friend, pretending that the garden shed is an animal rescue center and the backyard chickens are actually wild monkeys. My son is bouncing on a trampoline with the friend’s big sister and I can see their carefree bodies flying above the wheat fields, in the shadow of the village church.

It’s past their usual school-night bedtime, but the sun is still high and we’ve stopped keeping track of these things anyway. Evidence of the day’s activities is scattered on the grass: badminton birdies, a rainbow of half-finished loom band bracelets, a decorated cardboard lean-to and sticky signs of an earlier snail race.

Both kids return with dirty feet and ice cream on their faces and I’m pretty sure they forgot to wash their hands after petting the donkey across the road. But it’s okay. It’s the summer holidays in rural England and it feels like the stuff childhood is made of. The only catch is that it’s not where we live…

Life is a series of trade-offs.

Back in Jakarta, we’re on our way to school and my children want to know why we don’t live in England. “Well…because we live here”, I respond simply, feeling a sharp pang of guilt.  I go on to explain that day-to-day life in England would probably be different than the idyllic summer version. For example, instead of playing all day, they would have to go to school and soon the long sunny days would turn cold and wet.  “That’s okay!” they chirp, happily unconvinced.

Luckily the conversation shifts and together we watch the city float past our car window. The daily mosaic of life here is colorful, chaotic and always fascinating. We read shop signs, point out our favorite kaki lima food carts and compete to find the most interesting motorcycle cargo…from pallets of baby chicks to enormous balloon bundles.

We talk about their new school classes and where all the children are from, realizing that there are nearly as many nationalities as students. We think about where we might like to travel for their half-term break and marvel at how lucky we are to be so close to so many amazing destinations.

Life is a series of trade-offs.

Sometimes, I feel sad about the fact that our children are growing up so far away from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But then I am also reminded that since our family is both British and American, we will always be far from someone we love regardless of where we live. We do the best we can to stay connected and are grateful for the precious time we get to spend together.

Occasionally, I see photos of my friends’ frolicking children and feel a twinge of regret that my own kids are missing out on  the places and experiences I enjoyed as a child growing up in the US.

But then I examine my own assumptions…does their childhood need to resemble my own for it to be good? Of course not. My children may not learn to ski anytime soon, but they are seeing and doing so much more than I ever dreamed of at their age.

Life is a series of trade-offs.

I tell myself that we are lucky to enjoy the best of both worlds. But in reality, we can’t have it both ways.

This is the path we’ve chosen and there are limitations as well as benefits. Accepting these trade-offs brings a certain kind of relief and shifts the focus — emphasizing what we have instead of what we’re missing.

It’s a process, but I’m getting there.

How do you and your family balance life’s trade-offs? 

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour.

Photo Credit: ClairOverThereThis image holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.



Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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