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Relocating? Never, or maybe yes?

These days I have been looking back at the past year: Finally I was calm and relaxed again, able to take the past into view.

Maybe if I recollect this in an article, reading it can be helpful to others.

In June 2006 it looked like we were going to stay in the Washington area for two more years; so I decided to look for something useful and fulfilling to do. But as I was just about to promote new children’s chorus program at a local music school, my husband received the offer of going into the field, more precise: Jakarta, Indonesia. Of course, my first response was a heartfelt “no, not now; not to Jakarta; not anywhere;  not at this time; our oldest daughter has only two more years of High School to finish……”

But did emotional reasons ever change the course of a man’s career move? Of course not, so what is my value anyway? Do I have an importance of my own, without making big money? Do my wishes and my children’s needs make any difference in the management of the World Bank Staff? Why does it have to be such a city with her big problems of pollution, overpopulation, poverty, the embarrassing gap between poor and rich, the world famous corruption, the geological position in the Pacific Ring of fire?

If it is just for three years, why will I have to start from zero again and again and again? The staff member will not have to look for useful occupation, social contacts, recognition all by him self; all of this comes with the job, but what about us, the dependents? Oh, how I came to hate this word!

What a strain this whole idea puts on our marriage? I guess our WBFN members have all experienced similar feelings: who has to give in? Who understands whose worries and wishes and dreams and needs? Where should the priorities be for me, for him, for us as parents, for us as a family?

My most important lesson learned at this time in my life: talk about it, talk, and talk! To your husband, to your friends, to your doctor, to your mom, if you are blessed to still have her around.

In my case, our marriage was tense but also intense during this period. When else would we have discussed priorities in life if not at this occasion?

Second: friends may understand your feelings, but they may also give your another perspective on the matter. Maybe they envy you to have this chance of a lifetime to see another part of the world.

Third: My doctor even got me to understand, that my own professional chances might be much bigger out there than in the well established and equipped Washington Metropolitan area.

Also she was able to change my look at the privileged life I was bound to live: I could rest for once, have plenty of time for my children, not be stressed by driving myself anymore, getting freed from boring household duties and instead being able to make music and teach music.

And about being a rich foreigner in a poor country, well I could employ someone and thus share the wealth and support another family.

I also was reminded by my pastor and friend, that whether poor or rich, our basic needs are the same, physically as well as mentally and spiritually.

So slowly, I befriended with this whole idea. But still, Jakarta is not the healthiest place to be, and what about terrorism and crime rate?

Here comes the second lesson learned: Ask questions! Research! Use the services available at the World Bank and from WBFN and of course the internet. You can find I wish, I would have inquired more carefully the medical information available, unfortunately, the health department of the World Bank provides advice only after the assignment is confirmed, not during the decision process.

It is a great advantage to be able to do a look-see-trip, but in our case, we used the spouses points and a planned mission to go to Jakarta in the early stages of the decision making process. This trip made all the difference

  • I saw the “Big Durian”, as this city is called after a tropical bad-smelling fruit, with my own eyes,
  • I met people who have so far survived there (quite well, actually),
  • I got a feeling of the pace of life, an impression of its people (just lovely!), a look at housing options, a taste of the traffic, and answer to why one should not drive himself,
  • an interview with the schools vice principal and the music director, both welcoming me as an addition to their team. One could hear stones falling from my husband’s heart and soul.

Who would have predicted: I fell in love with the people in Indonesia and I wanted to move, for my own reasons. This is where you want to be, when a change in life is affecting you, true?

So, now we have been here for six months already: Tension has disappeared, stress is reduced to a normal level, many things have turned to the better for all five of us, my husband is definitely at the right place, my worries have calmed down, my “career” is on its way, I found my ways to cope with my position as “Madam”, I have started speaking Bahasa Indonesia and am able to communicate with local people.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I promised, I would write to my dear friends at WBFN, retelling the process, so that staff dependents after me can take what they need from my story.

Also by doing this I wanted to give back all the important little gestures from all of you at WBFN that made relocating to Washington from Germany more than six years ago a breeze, and that helped me during the difficult transition to where I am now.

Thank you all!

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