“This is your host family” we were introduced to the Indonesian couple we would have lunch with, “She’s a doctor.” Thank you, God. I silently prayed. While the rest of the group ate lunch my Nasi Goreng stared back at me. I’d managed two small bites before my stomach began a mighty protest.
“What’s wrong?” the doctor asked and I explained my symptoms. “You need an antispasmodic” and she promised to bring me some from her pharmacy later.
After lunch we checked into the guest house and I slept the rest of the day. An expat friend brought over chicken soup and crackers and Ben and Isaiah went to an Indonesian friend’s house for dinner. I’m missing everything, Lord. I whined from my bed.
|Isaiah opening the gate to our home on the "mouse road"|
The next day another expat friend came to pick us up for a drive around town and to see our house. Fully medicated, I held my stomach tightly while we drove. This town seems so foreign. I thought, It’s not at all like Sentani. The thought made me sad. I had expected to feel some sense of “home” in Wamena. After all, Sentani was only a temporary stop for language learning. Surely my heart would know the difference.
room for only one vehicle at a time. The gardener opened the gate for us and we walked towards the back garden. Washing lines were hung high and I imagined the previous residents must have been much taller than me. There was a tree house and Isaiah wasted no time climbing up. A small chicken coop sat tucked in the shade beneath it. The garden was small, but bright with tropical plants. Parting a few tree branches I stepped onto a small hidden patio where the previous residents had set their chairs for morning coffee. Within a few seconds the mosquitoes chased me out. I wondered how to make the space usable and still avoid itchy bites.
|Quite a tree house!|
The house itself was quite large. A long house with living room, dining area and kitchen all as one straight line from the front of the house to the back. Six small rooms, four off one side and 2 on the other, flanked the house. What will we do with all these rooms? I wondered.
I stood in the middle of the house trying to imagine living there. Trying to imagine feeling at home there. The house and the garden were very nice, no doubt about it. But it was also much different than my small modern apartment size home in Sentani.
The neighbors were different too. Wamena Papuans had much darker skin and hair than my Papuan friends in Sentani and I hadn’t seen any Indonesians in the neighborhood at all. There were no familiar features or faces. These people seemed rugged and tough. An expat friend had once described Wamena as a bit like the “Wild West” and I was beginning to have that sense as well. No, this definitely does not feel like home, I concluded. My stomach roaring in protest I look for a place to sit down.
|Our Wamena house|
It doesn’t have to feel like home, I hear in my heart. I close my eyes and listen again. It doesn’t have to feel like home.
The words stick and I see my foolish expectations for what they are. No, Wamena does not have to feel like home. Perhaps it will, at some point in the future when I’m healthy and after we’ve moved in and settled, and I will welcome that feeling. But it doesn’t have to. It never has to. Because truth be told, none of this world is my home. We are mere travellers, living but for a few brief years before death comes to claim our bodies.