The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Santi Dharmaputra, Indonesian expat in Australia (6/12)

Current home: Sydney, Australia
Past overseas locations: Germany, USA, The Netherlands, Syria
Cyberspace coordinates: Trilingual: Indonesian, French, English | world trotters raising two multilingual kids (blog)
Most recent post: “”A Woman’s Work” (my article in The Jakarta Globe)” (December 23, 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
At my parents’ house in Indonesia.

What will you do when you first arrive?
Hugging and kissing my parents.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
Spending time with family and old friends.

Will you be on or offline?
Online.

Are you sending any cards?
I usually write greetings on my FB wall or my blog.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Any kind of Indonesian food. Pineapple tarts (a festive Indonesian cookie) and kastengel (Indonesian cheese sticks) are among my favorite guilty-pleasures.

Can you recommend any good books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
Trailing wives — regardless of whether they are sojourners or seasoned expats — might appreciate:
1. A Broad Abroad: The Expat Wife’s Guide to Successful Living Abroad, by Robin Pascoe (The Expatriate Press, 2009)
2. A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom (Harper, 2001)
These are two among many books that have made me feel more empowered. By reading widely, I’ve come to understand that (trailing) wives everywhere and in every era have struggled to find happiness, just as I have. :-)

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
I spent part of my childhood in The Netherlands. I loved it when Sinterklaas visited our school and gave us presents. When my family moved to Syria, I was disappointed: no Sinterklaas! By the time I returned to Indonesia at age 11, I didn’t believe in Santa. To this day, though, I believe that Sinterklaas is the only real Santa (LOL).

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
Tricky. I’m an adult TCK married to another adult TCK, and we’ve continued moving around the globe in our adulthood. I can feel both displaced and part of a place at the same time. But if I had to pick one occasion, it would be when I witnessed my trilingual children celebrating the holidays with their paternal relations in Alsace, France. Their granny and great-granny spoiled them, and it was lovely to see my kids so happy. I felt very at home in my husband’s French family. At the same time, though, I felt displaced — I was missing my own family in Indonesia.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Also tricky, as it depends on where we happen to be. Last year we spent the holidays on our own, just the four of us. My husband was too busy working and had only two days off. I was left to entertain the kids during their six-week school break (in Australia, Xmas break is the equivalent of the long summer break in the Northern Hemisphere). At that time, we’d been living in Sydney for less than a year, so we spent most of the time exploring the beach.

When we were living in Munich, we spent two Christmases with my husband’s family in Alsace, and it was sad each time we left. As adult TCKs ourselves, my husband and I are used to living with our nuclear families, so it was a novelty to spend those two Xmases with the extended family, including my husband’s siblings and their kids. Our kids were even happier with their grannies and cousins around, and the same was also true of us (at least during holiday seasons ;)).

When living in Chicago, we tended to use the time between Xmas and New Year for road trips. Sometimes we were traveling in snowstorms — so were happy and relieved to arrive back home safely.

While we were in Holland, I worked as a lawyer and used to enjoy the Xmas dinner held by the office along with the generous Xmas bonus. But when I had to return to the office after the New Year, I did so rather reluctantly — LOL.

The last time I spent New Years in Jakarta was in 2001. My brothers, husband and I (we didn’t have kids yet) stayed at a hotel to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It was kind of sad to leave Jakarta to return to the winter season in Europe (we were in Holland then).

This year, we traded in Australian summer for the Indonesian rainy season. Temperature wise, though, there’s almost no difference. I guess our kids will be sad to leave their Indonesian grandparents and cousins when we go back to Sydney.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:
SIX SPOUSES TRAILING,
FIVE GOOOOOOOFY EXPATS.
FOUR ENGLISH CHEESES,
THREE DECENT WHISKIES,
TWO CANDY BOXES,
& AN IRISHMAN IN A PALM TREE!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (7/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.

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2 responses to “12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Santi Dharmaputra, Indonesian expat in Australia (6/12)

  1. ML Awanohara January 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    @Santi
    Your interview reminded me of a site that I encountered some time ago, called Diplomatic Baggage | The Diplowife and her Blog, by a young Filipina married to a budding diplomat. It just so happened that after posting this, I was notified of some more exchanges on her “about” page, where I’d commented some time ago. Pamela O’Cuneen came in — she is the author of Culture Shock and Canapes, due out April 5, 2012. O’Cuneen had this to say of the trailing spouse’s fate (I suspect you can identify!):

    It’s so difficult to describe the way we live to those who have never experienced it, in my research on travelling families I focused on wives because we have to go through all the changes and disruption with very little support, whereas our husbands go from one interchangeable office setup to the next with a great deal of cushioning.

  2. Kate Allison January 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Santi, thanks for the book recommendations – if not for myself, for my alter ego, Libby!
    And I’m starting to detect a trend in the rising popularity of Christmas e-greetings, which gives me the perfect excuse next year to save money on cards and postage. Maybe use the extra money for some more of my own favourite Christmas tradition: Stone’s Ginger Wine.

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