By Hannah Black
Once in a while, living so far away from my family, I have moments of that deep sadness that only a momma or poppa hug can really cure. Even at 28 years old and after five years of living in Bali there are times I want to jump on a plane and jet my way back to drizzly grey skies and a proper piece of toast slathered in Marmite (sorry, Aussies; Vegemite just don’t cut it).
A series of small events over the past week lead up to one of those moments of heartbreaking homesickness.
It may seem shallow, but the first thing that set me on the road to sobbing was a couple of torturous shopping trips trying to find something to wear to go out in. I’m usually not big on celebrating anniversaries, but it felt like my husband Ongky and I hadn’t spent any time alone together for far too long so we decided to go out for our third wedding anniversary.
With a closet full of clothes I’ve had since at least my last trip back to the UK well over a year ago (and much, much longer), I thought it was time to find something to spruce myself up a bit.
Nice thought, but when you’re 170cm tall and a far bigger size than anything that exists here, shopping can be an absolute nightmare. Try finding a pair of women’s sandals other than rubber flip-flops in a size 42.
Tops aren’t really a problem, but it would be a miracle to find a pair of jeans, and cotton underwear – unheard of in these parts. Even a trip to Discovery Mall, complete with Marks & Spencer yielded no results. Sorry, but I refuse to pay twice the price for my knickers just because they’ve been made in India, shipped to the UK and then sent out to Bali. I just have my mother pay to send them to me instead.
So the perpetual problem of trying to be stylish in Bali was a bit of a downer; and then came pictures of snow from friends and family in the UK.
Even as a child I wasn’t crazy about snow. It’s cold and wet and turns to mushy grey stuff that gets in your boots and makes your toes freeze, but its been so damn hot and sweaty here the past week, I couldn’t think of anything better than being in my parents’ house overlooking the harbour, watching the snow fall.
I thought about how exciting it would be for my daughter Lola to see the snow, as well as Ongky, who saw it once on the way to the airport in London the morning we were flying back to Bali last year.
To watch them seeing snow would somehow make it less cold, wet and slushy for me.
The straw that broke this camel’s back was on Saturday, getting ready to go out for dinner. I saw how busy everyone was with it being Saraswati day and realized my husband was missing going to temple so he could go out for dinner with me.
It was then that a great tsunami of sadness washed over me and I thought about how much I missed my family. (Am I starting to sound like a hormone-crazed she-devil yet?)
I love my family here like crazy, and I do feel like part of them, but I just wanted mine.
Everyone, including Ongky, seemed so together and busy with the goings on of the day’s ceremonies, but for some reason I felt very alone.
It’s sometimes very hard to describe why you feel sad, and when Ongky asked me why I didn’t really have an answer.
Being Balinese, the most emotionally controlled people in the world, he said if I didn’t know why I was sad then I shouldn’t be sad. Very bad move, husband dear.
That was it: tidal wave sweeping in; run for your life; save yourself. At that point Ongky shut down, went to temple and left me at home to be sad and then gather myself.
I managed to convince myself not to call my parents and sob down the phone at them, but instead called an American friend who is married to a Javanese man. We talked about how hard it can be sometimes living so far away from our families and I started feeling a bit better.
I’m still having small aftershocks of homesickness, but I think the nasi goreng and beer Ongky brought home to make up for our missed dinner was touching enough to quell the feeling for a little while longer.