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Home sweet home?

Hadi Ismanto

Tue Dec 06 2011

returning home

SCHOOL’s out for the year and for most international students that means returning back home for summer. Meld reporter Hadi Ismanto shares his thoughts on what it’s like to have left Melbourne and be back in his home country, Indonesia.

The ever-changing and unpredictable weather, the tram adventures and the nice brunch and coffee spots – leaving Melbourne always makes me a little sad. But it’s the summer university break and I, like most international students, have decided to spend it back in my home country.

Pekanbaru, where I come from, is well-developed, but still not as widely-known or popular as Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta. Located on the island of Sumatera and only a stone’s throw away from Singapore, it’s a small and rather peaceful city.

Coming back to Pekanbaru feels like coming back to reality. There’s no more Baba Budan coffee for me. No more Hardware Lane atmosphere. And certainly, no more checking the weather before heading out.

The Weather

Ok I admit it, I’m one of those international students who complains and complains about Melbourne’s weather. Some of my most commonly uttered lines are:

“Oh, Melbourne has the strangest weather.”

“I hate Melbourne’s weather. It’s like having four seasons in a day.”

“Oh no, I didn’t bring my jacket because I thought it was gonna be all sunny today. I hate Melbourne.”

But now that I’m back home, I actually prefer Melbourne’s weather. Pekanbaru, especially, is really hot and humid. The scorching heat never seems to rest. When she does, it rains. And no, it’s not the kind of rain you can just run through like in Melbourne, but the sort of rain that floods rivers, canals and low places. You don’t want to go outside when it rains, and the smell…

The days are so hot, showering becomes something you fantasise about. Imagine walking out of the bathroom and getting ready to go out. You haven’t even done your hair or make-up and you’re already breaking out in a sweat. That’s Pekanbaru weather. That never happens in Melbourne. In Melbourne, I only have to shower when I need to. Back home, showering is an hourly routine. I need to shower. I love showering.

The Entertainment

Being an Arts student with few in-class hours, I usually find myself slacking off in the comfort of my own bedroom when I’m in Melbourne. I have my Mac and I have my fast internet connection. I could watch movies all day, waste time on YouTube and spend hours getting “connected”.

If I get tired of self-confinement, I can go out and hang with friends in any of the nice cafes around the city. Max Brenner, San Churro, Melbourne Central Food Court, take your pick, they’re all good. When I want to escape from the city, I rent a car and go someplace nice, like the beach or Ballarat.

What do I do here in Pekanbaru? Slow internet has turned my Mac into a white elephant – it’s useless – and the lack of entertainment has forced me to constantly resort to the only enjoyable activity available – eating.

Eat, eat and eat. That’s all I do back home. Luckily, the food in Indonesia is varied, cheap and good, which brings me to my last point.

Being King:

Pekanbaru might not have Melbourne’s shopping centres, trendy cafes and fast internet, but things are affordable here. Actually, they’re pretty darn cheap.

Food, phone bills, petrol, parking fees and the car itself cost a fraction of what they do in Melbourne. One of the things I miss the most when I’m in Melbourne is the way I can eat till I almost explode and watch lots of movie marathons back home without worrying about how much money I’m left with to survive the rest of the week.

On top of that, if you have travelled around, you’ll know there is a big difference between Western and Eastern hospitality.

In Melbourne, the barista sees every customer as a friend or buddy. Sure, they have a responsibility to make the customer feel welcome, but it’s more of a “I-respect-you, you-respect-me” sort of thing.

In Indonesia, like most Asian countries, phrases like “the customer is always right” and “the customer is a king” stand tall. In almost every retail shop and restaurant, the customer is treated like a king or queen.

The Verdict

In the end, there are some things I miss about Melbourne and there are some things I don’t, but I would never take back the opportunity I have had to immerse myself in a different culture and atmosphere.

After all is said and done, no place is better than any other. Every city has a unique identity and its own comforts and discomforts. All you have to do is relax and enjoy life. After all, you’re still young and have lots to learn and experience!

Is there anything you really miss about Melbourne when you’re back home, or anything you really love about being home? Share in the comments box below!