Kerasan is my favorite word in the Indonesian language. It loosely translates to “feel at home,” but it means so much more.
After I meet someone for the first time, there are the usual questions about my nationality, age, marriage status, and ability to eat rice. Eventually the conversation turns to my favorite question “kerasan di Indonesia?” or “do you feel at home here?”
I will not lie–there have been times in my service that I have felt alone and isolated. However, the fact is that two years after I stepped on Indonesian soil, I do feel at home here. The reasons for this are numerous and unquantifiable, but they include…
…the children now screech “Miss Emi” when I pass them on my red and white bicycle, a pleasant change from the original “Hello Mister!”
…I was considered family at my counterpart’s wedding. Dressed in traditional Maduranese clothing and headscarf, I was tasked at handing out cakes to the guests.
…my host sister calls me kak, the shortened version of kakak which means older sibling.
…I was invited back to my original training host family’s house to meet my nephew and was showered with love.
…my students now talk more about how I motivate them, instead of the whiteness of my skin.
…my community is genuinely sad about my departure in two months.
“Yeah,” I always say “I feel at home here.”
Those strangers usually turn away with a smile on their face, gladdened that a foreigner feels the strength of Indonesian hospitality. But for me, it’s so much more than that. It’s the shine in my student’s eye when they understand a complex idea, it’s the smile of children when they chat with me, it’s the odd comfort when my Ibu pitches my arm fat to see how much weight I have lost/gained when I’ve been away.
Indonesia has a permanent place in my heart. It’s home.
They say living abroad for an extended period of time changes your view of home. When you leave, you leave part of you. I can not explain the truth of this statement, the words aren’t available in the English language. But the Indonesians, they understand. It’s kerasan.
It has been a life-changing three years since I graduated STAC, with more than two years of it serving with Peace Corps Indonesia. Through the ups and downs I have received much more than I have gave in this experience. With my approaching return to America on June 10th, I find myself balancing between the life I knew and the one I have grown to love, rice intolerance and all.
Our lives are constantly evolving. It’s my philosophy that we should cherish our memories, live in the present and look towards the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re graduating from college, getting married, finding a new job, or moving half-way across the world; life is always changing. I’m heading back to the world of easy access to cheese and good coffee, a job search and the adventure of living with my best friend. Home will be changing again. And as hard as it will be say goodbye, as much as a piece of me will stay in Indonesia, I’ll find kerasan again. That’s just life, and it’s beautiful.
The contents of this editorial are of Emily Hough and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Emily Hough is a 2012 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas, majored in Philosophy & Religious Studies as well as Social Science. At STAC, she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Thoma. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com with any questions or comments.