I always find it difficult to give a simple answer to the question, “Where do you come from?” or “Where’s your hometown?”
Those questions got me thinking, ‘Where is home?’
Is it the place where I was born? The place where I grew up? The place where I spent the longest time of my life? Or is it the place where I’m currently living in? They’re all different (and don’t say ‘home is wherever the heart is‘, because there are pieces of my heart in each of these places).
So instead of chalking it down to one place, I’m gonna list all the places I’m lucky enough to have called ‘home’.
I don’t remember much about Soroako (now spelled ‘Sorowako’, but I’m never used to this new spelling). I spent the first 10 years of my life here, and I really struggle to remember anything beyond little snippets.
Our stilt house was situated on top of a hill, overlooking Lake Matano which I usually went to for swimming sessions. The lake, surrounded by hills, was such a treat for me who wasn’t a keen swimmer. But as much I hated swimming, to this day, I’m grateful I grew up swimming in an actual lake (the deepest lake in Indonesia, no less!) rather than in swimming pools.
Soroako was a mining town, built for the employees of a mining company operating there. It had a tight-knit community, with people that felt more like family rather than neighbors. I regularly had coto makassar and kapurung, the local delicacies that would become my favorite. We had a yellow bus who would pick us up for school, and drop us back at the bus stop. I had a horrible math teacher and an overly ambitious rival at school, but believe it or not, those were good memories.
When we had to move, I knew it was hard not just for me and my sister, but for my parents as well. We all cried when we said goodbye, and we did so in more than one occasion (at home many times on the last days, during our farewell party, at the airport, and maybe a few times in between).
When I think about Soroako, all I remember is the good times, the amazing people, and the beautiful place; the best combination one could have for the first decade of their life.
Batu Hijau, Sumbawa
Life was simple Batu Hijau, in the best kind of way.
We were spoiled with the nature around us. We had the jungle as our backyard (literally), and we often had monkeys, snakes, and boars frequenting our backyard at night. There were 3 beaches within 20-minute drive each, all with white sand and blue-turquoise water. It really was a paradise on earth.
This was the second mining town I lived in, and everything was better than the previous town. The school was exceptional, the teachers were amazing, and I actually LOVED studying and going to school. Our school encouraged us to do creative projects after school, so we often hung out to do art and craft, play music, practice for the school play, or learn with the computers (it was such a cool thing back then). I explored the town and the jungle with friends during my free time and played at the beach in the weekends, snacking on grilled fish (fresh from the sea) and drinking raw coconuts.
It was a childhood well-lived, which almost didn’t feel real as it was too wonderful.
My first three years in this city was one of the hardest times of my life, although I’ve never blamed it on Bandung. I had a hard time in a mediocre public school with a crappy education system, and for the first time in my life, I hated going to school.
But Bandung cured my loneliness. It was welcoming, friendly, and warm. I lived alone for the first time at the age of 15, and yet, I’d never felt alone or scared. I graduated high school with flying colors, and the next four years in college was filled with bittersweet memories. Falling in love, getting my heart broken, and forging friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Friendships that have stood the test of time and distance. Friendships that don’t need daily check-ins, but can pick up where it left like no time has passed.
When it was time to leave, I stifled a few sobs and forced myself to put the last remnants of my college life into the cardboard boxes. This was a place that I loved so dearly, that whenever I come to visit, I feel a pang of nostalgia and sadness. The city has changed, and I have changed. But my fondness of Bandung remained the same, and no amount of visit can cure the longing of being in one place where I can find a piece of my old self, something that I don’t get to see very often in the last few years.
Southampton has seen some of the best times of my life. I came here full of excitement and curiosity, with wanderlust to fulfill and opportunities to explore. I met a lot of people who would later become huge parts of my life. This place was like Bandung, where hearts were broken and mended, dreams chased and lived. My first year here as a student were nothing but a bliss.
Perhaps, one thing that made me so fond of Southampton was how I discovered my true self here. Living 7000 miles away from friends and family back home, I was able to gain new perspectives, and with that, lots of questions about things I used to believe. That one year changed me completely. By the end of my master’s year in Southampton, I was a lot more independent and courageous than I’d been before. For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my own skin.
I became the best version of myself here; full of hope, determination, and grit.
It broke me to pieces when I bid farewell to Southampton, but I came back 2.5 years later to be with my fiance. And while we’ve enjoyed our time here, it’s starting to feel like we’ve overstayed our welcome. We’re longing for a new adventure and a new place, and I’m wondering where our next home will be.
How about Jakarta?
My parents moved to Jakarta in 2008, and despite living there for almost 2.5 years and visiting my parents once every few months when I lived away, it never felt like home.
In Jakarta, I was no more than a visitor. I struggled to remember the streets and the buildings, and my hand would always grip my phone tightly the minute I left the house, relying completely on the GPS. Every noise made me flinch, every stare made me cower, and I never walked without looking back every few seconds for fear of being attacked. I was used to hugging my bag in front of me when I was outside; to keep it safe, to keep me safe.
Jakarta was no more than a layover; somewhere I had to stop in between two legs of a journey. I was a stranger in this city, and mutually, it was also foreign to me. It’s never been a home, and I doubt it ever will.
I remember when I grew up, I sometimes wished we hadn’t needed to move. But young Dixie didn’t know much. In the end, I’m so grateful that I have many places I get to call home.
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?