When i grew up in Bandung, i was always fascinated with big metropolitan cities like Hongkong, New York, LA and Tokyo. In TV and movies that i saw, those cities looked so beautiful with colourful neon lights, handsome men in suits, stylish ladies with pretty handbags, and fancy restaurants visited by famous people. I dreamt of living there... leaving my quiet small boring town forever...
So when I finished high school and my mom asked me where i wanted to go for college, my immediate response was America..!! I would love to go to Hongkong or Tokyo but language would be a big problem for me. My mom enrolled me in San Diego States University. She had never been there but her friend's daughter was there and said the place was suitable for studying. I was a bit dissappointed coz i thought I'd go to Los Angeles. My mother said no, saying that city was just for fun not for studying..
When I arrived in San Diego, I fell in love instantly.. Stepping out from the plane, I was greeted by the beach lined with palm trees. The people were very friendly, instantly smiling whenever they made eye contacts with strangers. I ended up staying a good five and a half years there, enjoying my college years filled with mexican food, barbeques by the beach, strolling thru La Jolla, meeting people from all over the world, disco trips to Tijuana and so many interesting activities that i would never be able to do in Bandung.
After finishing college, a lot of foreign students decided to stay and apply for green cards to live in US. As for me, I decided to go back and work in Jakarta. I couldn't imagine going back to the quiet and boring town of Bandung. I worked as an accountant for 5 years in Jakarta. I worked hard and partied hard. My bosses loved me coz I could happily spend nights in the office to meet deadlines. I enjoyed working on weekends as much as I enjoyed club hopping after work. It was a life that I had always dreamt of... Until I met my husband and moved to Kuala Lumpur. Prior to meeting my husband, I had no idea what Kuala Lumpur was like other than it was an Islamic country. I was a bit scared imagining how my life would be. Reading about shariah laws in Saudi Arabia gave me goose bumps, how thieves would have their hands chopped off when they were cought. How women are not allowed to drive and go without any male companion. I imagined KL was similar to that. How women do not go to school after puberty.
So when I landed at KLIA, I was surprised to see girls in tank tops and lipsticks driving around town. When my husband introduced me to his friends, I met nice interesting people who talked "the same language" with me... I was soooo relieved and totally embarassed for being so ignorant and not doing any research on Malaysia.
I have been living here for 11 years now, totally enjoying my life... Of course life here is so much different from Bandung, San Diego and Jakarta but I did fall in love with KL. I love the public parks, the wet market of Taman Tun, the variety of food, the holiday celebrations, the colourful culture, and the list goes on and on.
During my 11 years here, i went back to Bandung about 3-4 times a year. During those visits, my husbands made me fall in love all over again.. not with him, but with Bandung...!! The place that I thought to be boring is actually a very interesting place to live. When we were in Bandung, I had time to pamper myself. I had massages at the comfort of my own room, I enjoyed the delicious tastes of nasi kuning, batagor & mie kocok, I spent hours in coffeeshops by the hills in Dago, I spent hours shopping at the factory outlets without poking too much holes in my pocket and I did creambath (scalp and back massage) anytime I wanted. All those possible because I didn't need to think about my kids..!! My mom took them for horse riding, shopping, or taking rides on becak. My kids could play with their cousins and uncles.
My husband told me how relaxing it is to live in Bandung... he even thought about retiring there. He wanted to have a house with huge garden in Lembang, half an hour drive from Bandung. He is dreaming of having his meals from our garden harvest. He is dreaming of playing golf in cool morning breeze everyday. He is dreaming of spending his afternoons seeping teas while enjoying the mountain views. And all those are possible in Bandung.
So when I read the book Alchemist by Paulo Cuelho, I really could relate the story with my life. After travelling and living in several countries, at the end of our life, we have the tendency to go back to where we started. The grass always looks greener at the other sides but actually the greenest grass may be in our own backyard. We just have to stop and have a good look at our own backyard, noticing not only the dirts but also the flowers and butterflies that live in it.