Viewing entries tagged
jakarta

the tirades of a young adult ix - an analysis of airplanes, holidays, and home

image

At the Tokyo Airport
by Koon Woon

Cold juice, cold Mt. Fuji,
A child alone dining.
Empty plane, empty heart.

Vast auditorium.
Hearing six tourists talk
About America.

Six bites of hot chicken.
Six swallows of cold juice.
Six hours, America.

Child alone, lonely child,
Here, six lotus petals
From Buddha, Mt. Fuji.

Where are your friends, your friends?
Where is your family?
In Buddha’s lotus palm.

Man alone, lonely man,
Where lies your loneliness?
In the mist of the world?

I literally started tearing up when I read this. It brought so much nostalgia, fear, sadness, joy, and just a whole jumble of bittersweet, confusing thoughts and feelings. At the core of everything, this is about homesickness peppered with missing the feelings I get when I’m on and/or near airplanes. Being on airplanes have always meant that I was going to some form of home. My trips back to Jakarta mean that I would visit familiar faces and places, feel some bittersweet nostalgia, and contemplate on where I’ve been and the person I’ve become. On the other hand, my trips back to Seattle mean that I would be home, be able to go to the coffee shops I always go to, see the people I always see, do what I always do, and live my life. Somewhere between that, I would change and grow and learn. Oftentimes I wouldn’t realize what I’ve learned or how much I’ve changed ‘till I actually do go back to Jakarta.

It’s funny how homesickness works for me. During regular days, I usually get homesick because I miss my parents or my cats. During summer breaks when I’m in Indonesia, I would get homesick cause I’d miss my regular reading spots and the coffee shop baristas that know my name. I’d miss the people I usually spend time with, the dance studios I go to, the broken-down couch I usually flop on after a long day of dancing. I feel like for me, and for a lot of people who’ve had similar experiences, it’s a never-ending feeling. It’s like no matter where you are or which home you’re in, there’s always that ever-present threat of homesickness, feeling of missing something, and not ever feeling completely whole. You’re always trying to do this weird dance; you try to weave in identities, experiences, languages, transnational spaces. You’re stuck in this limbo of two cultures (more challengingly, in a society that fears ambivalence or ambiguity). But despite the challenge, you do it anyway, because otherwise you’ll lose a part of yourself.

I usually go back to Jakarta either over the summer or winter break, though I’ve only gone there over winter break once since I moved to Seattle. Still, the homesickness is always multiplied over the break because everyone goes home for the winter holidays. As much as Seattle is home for me, so is Jakarta. That’s where my parents, family, and childhood friends live. Yes, I do have family here (my sister’s here, but I’ve found I have so many more relatives by circumstances than blood relatives in the states. I love them, but I usually never realize that until the winter holidays. Funny how life works, huh?). This time of year, most everyone get to feel what I feel whenever I go back to see my family: a mixture of confusion and awe at how such different characters and personalities can actually be related (for better or for worse) through a combination of miraculous selections of genes and simple fate. Whether you love or hate your family, whether they’re shitty to you or not (I myself have been privileged enough to have a loving family, but it’s important to recognize that some people don’t have that privilege and amazingly, they survive regardless), I don’t think you can’t not be in awe of this fact. Usually I get over it pretty quickly, but sometimes I still do feel envious of people who get to go through those weird moments with and feel those weird feelings about their families.

As silly as this might sound, I do miss airplanes, because being on airplanes means I should expect tears some 10,000 feet above sea level no matter how cheerful I was before that. Looking out of airplanes as the plane took off means I have a few minutes to take in a sight that I could only see once every year (if life permits). Obviously these don’t happen on some airplane trips, but it happens often enough that it becomes the first thing I associate with airplanes. Entering an airport to check-in means you’ve just went through a process of packing and/or unpacking, with maybe some not-so-pleasant life reevaluation thrown in the midst of the process. Being at airports during layovers means that you get to say you’ve been at some foreign country, if only to experience its culture through something resembling more of a bathroom quickie than a night of lovemaking with foreplay and shit. The seemingly countless hours on a large, enclosed cylinder with complete strangers mean you have so much time to reflect and to think (a.k.a. the worst things to do when you have so much thoughts and feelings). Being on airplanes mean you’ll watch really good and really bad airplane movies, and then after the x-number of movie, you get sick of them. You’ll hate airplanes and being on a 10+ hour flight more than anything in your life. It seems no matter how often I go back and forth between Seattle and Jakarta, I will never stop noticing these little things and the flood of bittersweet thoughts that come with them. As level-headed as I am most of the time, I will never stop romanticizing the trips home — whichever home I’m going to. This past summer, I went home for just three weeks. I thought I could do it and not romanticize it. I went home, hung out with my friends and family (plus cats), went and danced at my old studio, visited places I usually visited, and more. It was a nice, relaxed, low-stress trip. I thought I wouldn’t get attached, and, more importantly, I thought I wouldn’t cry. But as the plane took off and the towering buildings turned minuscule, I started bawling like a baby. I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. It was supposed to be like a one-night stand, not saying goodbye to a lover only to be in a tragic long-distance relationship. Yeah, all of this is melodramatic, but it’s valid.

I wouldn’t ever have felt any of this had I not board that plane four years ago when I first went to the States. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post had I not packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends, family, then-boyfriend, and everyone else. Uprooting and traveling; it’s hard, it’s fun, it’s enlightening, it’s exhausting, it’s weird, it’s scary. Now, sitting here writing this at 12 a.m., I realize that it was necessary. Funny how life works out, huh?

xx

-i