When I met new people, they often try and guess where I originate from, it’s kind of interesting to hear their thoughts and I usually get a few giggles. It is obviously somewhere from Asia by the look of me, I would usually allow them a good half-dozen guesses until they run out of options.
Most automatically assume that I am from China. See, I look Chinese but I can’t speak Chinese. I am Indonesian Chinese.
“But you don’t look Indonesian!” is the next reaction I’ve come to expect. Dewi is actually a very common name amongst the native Indonesian community, so upon hearing the name ‘Dewi’, most would assume a brown skinned girl. Even though I am Indonesian born, considering my Chinese background I have had to adapt overtime to become ‘one’ with my native Indonesian name.
The name must have meant something to my parents. I didn’t understand it whilst I still lived in Indonesia. To me, I felt the name was too common as much as it was confusing since there were so many cool modern english names they could have chosen for me as they did with my sisters ‘Karolina’ and ‘Tina’. I believed that if I would have been given a much simpler english name, I wouldn’t have had to receive all those puzzled looks that a ‘mixed matched’ person might naturally invite. That’s what I thought. That was the young me anyway.
Dewi in Indonesian means Goddess. Yes, I am flattered. Years later, I thank my parents for giving me an identity and I have since realised from being common in Indonesia, my name is extremely rare outside of it. In this new adopted country of mine, Australia, I feel special.
Upon introducing myself, most people assume that my name is pronounced ‘Julie’ or ‘Terry’. I beg your pardon, I know, it’s not the easiest to pronounce.
Anyway, “It’s deh-wee”.
Here is my life journey so far.
SERUKAM, WEST KALIMANTAN, INDONESIA
I was born in a village called Serukam. It’s not a known as a town as there is no population recorded here. It does not even show on a map. It’s in fact a destination for people who are mainly seeking medical attention.
Their famous Bethesda Hospital is always jammed packed with people from all over Indonesia. This hospital has adopted and maintained European medical techniques. My father, Dr Djoko was one of the very first medical team members along with Dr. Geary and Dr. Wendall to have built the hospital. They together implemented the hospitals very first medical methods that still exist until today, hence me being born there.
Beside the hospital, there is a kindergarden, houses that are being occupied by hospital staff and their family and an air strip. This village is lush with lots of greenery, friendly locals live a self-sustaining lifestyle with backyards consisting of animal farms and fruit and vegetable gardens.
To come back here from Australia, I would have to fly to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, then fly to Pontianak – the capital of West Kalimantan, from Pontianak I would have to embark on a 5 hour road trip. Without stopping, that would amount to a 13 – 15 hour journey.
I remember the freedom of being an outdoor kid. I loved running around the green fields, picking flowers and smelling the grass, climbing the hills, running down them and then climbing back up again.
I had the greatest time here in Serukam, because I just loved being outside, exploring and discovering elements I hadn’t seen before.
SINGKAWANG TO PONTIANAK, WEST KALIMANTAN, INDONESIA
Whilst living in Serukam, we regularly made trips to Singkawang to get away, to buy supplies and enjoy the beaches. If you can, why wouldn’t you move to a bigger and better place. That’s what my parents did.
I had a flat out first 7 years of my life. Beside being busy growing up, me and my family relocated from Serukam to Singkawang to Pontianak.
Singkawang is the second largest town in West Kalimantan. It’s 2 1/2 hours by car from Pontianak. There’s no tall buildings though there are many temples, townhouses and shops. Almost every townhouse owner owns a shop on their ground floor. Everything you need for your home and businesses is available here. There’s almost no need to drive further out to Pontianak if you are in the area. The town is always alive with a ‘hustle and bustle’, with people selling and buying day and night.
Not far from Singkawang there are several hotels and villa accommodations. It’s a great getaway for beach lovers. As well as the fantastic beaches, it’s also a great food destination. The food here is magnificent. everything on offer here really are works of art, prepared by cooks who have been using the same recipes for generations. Every bite being full of flavour with a clear taste of authenticity. without doubt, it’s worth driving the few hours to get here for the food alone!
My favourite is Bakso. That is meat ball noodle soup. The broth is made by cooking the bone for hours. Heart warming and whenever I think about this meal, I can’t help but get homesick.
To be honest, I don’t recall many memories from living in Singkawang. Everything felt like it just happened and then it was dissapeared. It was a stressful time for a toddler whose favourite boundless outdoor playground was reduced to a small concreted balcony. I was allowed to play outside, on the street that was, but I remember that it was always so busy and noisy with too many people starring.
I went to Kindergarden here. Not only was my playtime over, it was time to be a part of the society. But when possible, my parents would still take us to the beach, which I saw as my escape. It was so fulfilling to see the sea at the time, to hear the ocean whilst drinking coconut in a small warung.
We moved to Pontianak when I was 6yo. This place was like a metropolitan city for me when all I knew as a toddler was Serukam and Singkawang.
Pontianak is the capital of West Kalimantan. It’s located right on the equator. The culture is the same as in Singkawang only on a larger scale. Instead of beaches, the closest thin to a natural swimming area is the muddy water of the Kapuas river, which is always full of commercial fishing activities. and is not known to be a destination for the public to swim freely.
Even though it’s somewhat of a big city, the community is tight-knitted, and an ‘everyone knows everyone’ culture still exists. For over 20 years I have been going back and forth to this city, though over this time I have not noticed many big changes.
Apart from few new hotels on the main street, Jalan Gajah Mada, there are still no tall buildings. Due to location, the sun here is hotter than anywhere I have ever been. Nevertheless, the locals wear long sleeved shirts and jackets along with long pants to avoid sunburn, no matter how high the humidity is. Sunscreen is not commonly used. How do they do it day in day out – it’s a wonder. Beside a few museums and a river to admire from Kapuas Square, there really is not much else to do here for tourists.
But the people are always happy and getting along.
They seem to be content within their community, even though there aren’t too many developments, they support and get excited over new little things that pop up in and around their city. New things like playgrounds, coffee corners or childcare centres. They are a passionate bunch, patriotic almost, proud of nothing more than their own food. We never get hungry when we are in this city because takeaway in this city is almost cheaper than making your own dinner at home. So much to choose, from street food stalls to restaurants, with delicious traditional foods such as Chai-Kue (vegetable dumpling), Bakmi Kepiting (crab noodle), Nasi Campur (mixed rice with pork or chicken and vegetables) and Kwetiaw (rice noodle stir fry) being just a few of their dishes of speciality.
Pontianak is definitely a food destination. Domestic tourists come here just to eat. This compact city offers affordable rentals, even in the CBD. The roads are well maintained and unlike other larger Indonesian cities, it is not known to have many traffic jams.
I lived in Pontianak until the age of 7 which was when I had to move to Jakarta due to family financial hardship. Even though it was only for a short amount of time that I lived there, I’ve always called Pontianak home, always receiving a warm welcoming from my relatives upon returning. It’s just like I’m returning to my childhood again, everything is familiar and it’s so easy to get around and better yet being here means being closer to Singkawang!
PONTIANAK TO JAKARTA, JAVA, INDONESIA
The very first time I visited Jakarta was when I was 6yo and it was by boat. It took 3 days to arrive at the port in Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta. Only if I knew then how long it took, I was glad that the second time I immigrated to Jakarta it was by airplane.
Jakarta blew my mind away, everything appeared so big and modern. I fell lost, I could still hear my cousin’s voice reminding me to close my mouth whilst he drove me around back in pontianak. Everywhere I went there was so many more people, with every corner of space being occupied by someone, if not humans then by other creatures like stray dogs or cats.
For 12 years my schooling schedule was jam packed. In Indonesia, beside the annual 4 week mid year holiday (June to July indicates change of grade) and the public holidays of (Ramadhan and Christmas), I went to school 6 days a week. The hours were 7.30AM to 1PM throughout the early grades, with it stretching out to 3pm for the higher grades. I was always interested in many of the school’s extra activities, a few of which I used to participate in such as dancing, scouts and literature.
In my spare time, I loved to write and read.
I generally stayed in the northern side of Jakarta. Hanging out in the malls just like today’s kids do. North of Jakarta is the famous landmark of Ancol – consisting of seaside restaurants, resorts, theme parks and picnic areas. Once in a while I’d visit the zoo in Bogor, Dufan (Dunia Fantasy – Fantasy World) in Ancol and Bandung, which is another city that is located 2 hours away by car.
In those years, home and the malls were the only things I knew.
I had no immediate plan when I finished high school, but I was always happy to embrace any new opportunities. When I was given an opportunity to try out living in Australia as an overseas student, I welcomed it with both arms wide open.
It was the turning point for me. I never thought I’d be away from home indefinitely.
JAKARTA TO SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA
I was 19 when I arrived in Sydney, Australia. Alone on the long 7 hour flight, with little knowledge of the english language. I don’t remember feeling scared or lonely as it was such an exciting time for me, I could not wait to see the new world.
I fell in love with Sydney in an instant. It felt like home, my 2nd home.
I learnt so many things in Sydney. I learnt to be independent. I learnt that to survive in a foreign country meant staying honest and friendly. I was blessed with an easy going attitude and an ability to adapt. Lucky for me, I loved to explore new foods, having no trouble adapting to a new diet, yes, I loved vegemite on toast!
I met many other overseas students and loved learning about their many different cultures. Though at times I felt a little lost an at times experienced moments of culture shock, my mind quickly broadened. I am so grateful to have met many wonderful people who have helped me greatly on my path and have directing me to where I am now.
Sydney has always been kind and friendly to me. I was lucky to learn that the Indonesian community here was quite large so I was never alone. I spent everyday juggling between work and university, when I had time off from school, I’d return home to Indonesia.
Sydney is so beautiful. Words can’t describe how much I love this city. From it’s amazing beaches to it’s city landmarks to the gorgeous Blue Mountains range. This state is so versatile. It’s the place where I developed my love for the outdoors.
When I wasn’t at work or studying, I loved to walk around the CBD visiting the nearby sightseeing spots. I was a regular at the Sydney Opera House. When many people around the world would dream to see this spectacular landmark, I was always within walking distance. Yes, I was a lucky girl!
Three and a half years later, I finished my Business Studies at university in Sydney. My visa was running out and I wasn’t ready to go home for good, so I decided to stay on and pursue a permanent residency. To do that, I had to leave Sydney and move to Adelaide.
SYDNEY TO ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA
From the airplane, Adelaide looked like a country town to me. I couldn’t recognise many tall buildings and there was so much more blank spaces. I was used to the hustle and bustle that Sydney provided and the convenience of the subway trains. Adelaide felt so small to me, but it wasn’t too long until I found out that Adelaide has it’s own beauty.
This city is so diverse. I love the beaches, festivals, markets, wineries, hills and the famous Kangaroo island just to name a few.
It’s a festival state and holds it’s own right to be regarded as a unique city. The CBD is so neat and well planned which makes it easy to get around. The old buildings here are charming and elegant and there are many gorgeous streets full of art and cottages.
I loved hanging out at the old pubs and music venues, enjoying many live music shows. For a capital city, it doesn’t have that capital feel, it’s a peaceful place and never usually took me long until I found some serenity. Even in CBD I could always find a vacant spot to breath in the clean air and have a long lunch.
I started working full time here whilst learning to take photos as a hobby. I thank Adelaide for being my city of inspiration and to have motivated me to keep on learning my craft.
ADELAIDE TO BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
Currently I am living and enjoying the sunshine state Of Australia, Queensland. I am yet to find out a gret deal about Brisbane. The summer here is long, even during winter, there’s still some warm patches coming and going. I’m loving the heat.
Unlike Adelaide, the road and highway network is much more complexed and is always blocked with traffic during peak hours. To get away, I usually drive to Glass House Mountains and go hiking and take photos.
There are so many hikes throughout the Sunshine Coast region. A couple of cute towns I love visiting are Montville and Maleny. Brisbanes beaches aren’t as attractive as Adelaide’s or Sydney’s due to the large amount of mangroves that give a muddy look to the water. But go further north, the beaches are clean and blue, places like Noosa and Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast are popular getaways for beach lovers.
The great thing about Brisbane is that it’s less than a couple of hours away from the amazing Gold Coast. We visit this city quiet often. It’s full of gorgeous beaches, markets to visit and plenty of cosy hipster cafes that offer many healthy and unique eating options to choose from. I love the energy of this city. Everyone always appears to be on holiday and it’s relaxing atmosphere is contagious.
Until today I have never closed my door to new opportunities. To move, live and explore another city, state or country. I just know that life is too short and too precious to not take the chance. Doing what I love the most, to travel and to be taking pictures will always be part of me everywhere I go.