Mexican expat in Indonesia
Interview date – August 2013
What is your name? Ana Gaby
Where are you originally from? I was born and raised in Mexico, but have lived abroad for the past 7 years.
Where are you living now? The Big Durian, officially known as Jakarta, Indonesia.
How long have you lived there? We are about to hit the two year mark.
Where did you live before that? Bangkok, Thailand. And before that Frankfurt, Germany.
What made you decide to make the move? The first move was made out of pure love. I quit my job in Washington DC to marry my husband. Ever since then we have been moving every two to three years due to my husband’s job.
Why did you pick this country? We didn’t pick it as much as it picked us. When we were in Bangkok my husband travelled a lot to Indonesia. On occasion we would travel with him and knew what it was like. When the opportunity arose to make a move to Jakarta we jumped at it and ended up curtailing our Bangkok assignment to move here.
What are your future plans? We know for sure we will be here for at least one more year. In the meantime we are looking at other countries to move to and hope to make the move next summer.
Did you bring family and/or pets with you? How have they adapted? We don’t have any pets, just two little monkeys, I mean toddler boys. They have done really well adapting.
How many kids do you have? Two boys. A three year old and a one year old.
Were they born in your ‘home’ country or in your adopted country? Or elsewhere? My three year old Evan was born in Bangkok. It was the greatest experience ever. My second born, Joshua was born in Texas, in my second home after Mexico.
How have your children adapted to your move? They have done amazingly well. They are troopers. Of course it is challenging for them to move and feel like their home is slowly being put into boxes but we live under the premise that their home is where we are together and where the empty suitcase is, whether it is an empty apartment, a hotel or a relative’s house.
Can you share any moments when you realised your kid wasn’t from your ‘home’ country. Both my boys loooove Asian food. They would rather eat rice than anything else. They are also very used to removing their shoes whenever they enter someone’s house and they do that even when we are not in Jakarta. My parents still find it funny how they have to remove their shoes every single time they enter the house.
Do you speak the local language? If so, how long did it take you to learn it? Just a little bit. I did speak Thai and I took a full-on intensive two-month course. After all that brainwashing I ended up speaking it fairly well.
Have your children learned the language? What method of language learning worked best for them? They are still little so they have just picked up a few words here and there. They have learned it at their preschool and just interacting with our friends and neighbors.
What three personality characteristics would you consider are necessary for a success expat life? Patience, Patience and Patience… Patience with the new culture and the new surroundings, patience with the new people and patience with yourself, don’t try to do everything right away.
What do you miss? My family. We are lucky that they come to visit fairly often.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved? Just feeling settled. Feeling like the boys have their space and their routine.
How do you keep in touch with your friends and family in other countries? I am so happy we live in this era where the Internet is everywhere. We Skype all the time, we message each other on our cellphones and we talk on the phone fairly often,too.
Where do you take your holidays? We try to go back to the US and Mexico often. However, on occasion, we venture out and do something different. Last summer we went to Europe for a bit over a month before we went to Mexico.
Please share a debunked myth or stereotype about your host country. I don’t think people know much about Indonesia other than the fact that it is Bali is here. Indonesia is as diverse as its people and it would be a mistake to think that all of Indonesia is like a tropical paradise. There are thriving cities in the verge of becoming huge metropolis and I am so excited to be here to experience it.
What customs do you find most unusual about your adopted culture? I found it quite unusual at first when at some restaurants the waitresses would offer to hold or watch my kids while I ate. I felt so guilty at first but now I’m used to it! The kids have a great time and I can eat a meal without having a two minute time limit.
Tell us about local food you and your children love or hate. The boys absolutely love white rice and chicken satay. I like it but would be ok not eating it every single day!
Is there anything that is ridiculously cheap or expensive compared to where you used to live? Well, compared to Bangkok everything seems much more expensive. Compared to the US and Europe it is quite comparable. Cheese is ridiculously expensive and good quality furniture is quite affordable.
What do you most appreciate in your new country? Indonesian smiles. No matter where you go you are greeted with a cheek to cheek grin.
How did you make new friends in your new home? Having kids makes is so much easier! You meet other moms at the playgrounds or playgroups and at school. I joined several expat associations as well and have met many people thru them.
How to your spend your time? Have you taken up any new hobbies in your adopted country? I spend my time volunteering at different expat associations and being involved in the kids’ activities. I have become more serious about photography since being here and enjoy going out and just shooting random photos of random things, there are lots of those in Jakarta.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog. How long have you been blogging? I started Stumble Abroad as a mean to document our lives in Indonesia. At first its main purpose was to keep our families informed of our adventures and misadventures. It eventually became a site where I share tips for living in Jakarta with kids and encourage other families to travel with kids in tow. I have been blogging for a little over a year.
Why did you start blogging? After having my second baby boy I felt the need to start documenting some snippets of our daily live so I could come back to it and reminiscence about our life as expats. At the end I do think I will go back and look at it and it will probably provide lots of good material to embarrass my boys when I give a toast at their weddings.
Has it contributed to your well-being in any way? Absolutely. I feel like I have connected with so many people thru it and it gives me something to look forward to. I always love being in touch with new people and telling them all about Jakarta.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Ana!