Why I love condo living

Having a family with three young children, I dream of living in a house with an endless backyard. I imagine my children’s feet stomping on the grass and laughter filling the air as their sunlight-kissed bodies explore their tropical surroundings, while my husband is grilling on our outdoor BBQ and I’m sunbathing on a lounge relaxing the afternoon away. Of course, the reality   is very different to this, but it’s my fantasy!

We can easily make this dream come true by moving out of our practical condo and into our own lavish Indonesian house. The houses in Jakarta are so charming and have a strong allure to them. We came very close to moving into one when we first moved to Jakarta, especially after living in our cramped condo in Singapore. However, after much thought, we decided that condo living was the best choice for our family. At this stage in our family life, when our children are still very young, we prioritise efficiency, convenience and safety.  For us, these three factors are critical for an enjoyable stay in Indonesia as an expat family.

Living in a condo satisfies all three requirements for us. Our condo building is secure. It is full of security guards working 24-7. It has a robust security procedure for allowing non-residents onto the premises. Cars are checked before they enter and no one is allowed up into our condo without authorisation. The condo also runs regular fire drills and building safety inspections.

Our condo is efficient for us because we don’t need to worry about the finer details of running a household, such as hiring our own security guard, fogging of our yard, or maintenance of our pool and garden. That alone cuts down on at least four extra staff members that I would need to manage and who would occupy my personal space daily. Power outages or air conditioning maintenance is smoothly managed and I really don’t need to give much thought to handy work or upkeep. I simply pick up my phone and help is on the way!

Condo living for me is convenient because I have access to many amenities at my doorstep. Convenience wins bonus points for our family because it’s so difficult and frustrating to go anywhere with three young children. Most family-friendly condos in Jakarta are designed around resort style living. The condo will have children’s playgrounds (both indoor and outdoor), swimming pools, a gym, a convenience shop, possibly a restaurant, dry cleaners and beauty salons as well. Having access to all of these has drastically improved my lifestyle and I will take any opportunity I can to avoid traffic.

Another reason I love condo living is that it has nurtured my emotional health. I am a social person and love to be around people. As a stay at home mum spending most of my time with my children, I crave the company of other grown-ups. This is something that I recognised about my personality early on after experiencing motherhood and I make extra effort to be around other mothers. Especially during pregnancy and immediately after birth. By surrounding myself with other families in my building, I have warded off postnatal depression and the feeling of isolation.

My children also benefit from condo living. They have countless friends to play with and I never have to organise playdates for them because it happens naturally at the playground. I’m a part of a community where we take care of each other and socialise by the pool. They are my network to lean on and they make my time here worthwhile.

Of course, there are drawbacks to condo living. Privacy and having my own space is limited. I can’t go for a late-night swim in my own pool or walk outside with my kids without passing several neighbours and security guards. There are also a million rules to the complex that frustrate me tremendously.

The final reason why I think that efficiency, convenience and safety are the most important factors as an expat in Indonesia is because it eases the process of integration into the country. When you are new to a country, it’s crucial that you quickly adjust into your new home. You need to reinforce your decision for your move and the first few months will influence your feelings. Any negative experiences early on can unfairly taint your view for the remainder of your stay. Having things run smoothly as soon as possible and feeling safe greatly help with your adjustment period. Relieving the stress of setting up your new home can allow you to focus on more important issues, such as schooling, making friends and exploring Indonesia.

This article was originally published at Indonesia Expat

Long weekend in Central Java

We decided very last minute to book a short weekend away over the Easter break. Recommended by a single friend who has no children himself, we took a huge chance and decided to stay at a coffee plantation resort called ‘Mesastila Magelang’. This is a beautiful eco friendly resort, over looking Java’s countryside with mountains in the background. We took a short 1 hour flight to Samerang airport and was picked up by the Hotel’s car. It was a scenic 1.5 hour drive to our hotel.

The resort’s entrance foyer is an old railway station that they moved and restored. It was so charming and gave us an instant feeling of ease.

Our children immediately fell in love with the place. They couldn’t decide what to do and explore first! The gigantic gong, an interesting reflexology walk, a big chest board game, croquet balls or simply sitting on the rocking chairs!

Our children loved the kid’s room with an outdoor play area. They had toys, craft and bicycles. Our favorite hang out was the jungle gym in the middle of the trees, where we all joined in the fun and played the obstacle courses together.

Each afternoon, we enjoyed the tea which had delicious finger food and freshly brewed coffee or herbal tea. I was quite surprised to find that our children loved the herbal tea. The tea magically changed colors when we squeezed lemon into it. It was such a calm and laid back setting. We really felt a world away from Jakarta.

Our days were filled with lots of outdoor time together. We explored the huge grounds and walked around the plantation. They had goats, horses, fish ponds, organic farms and beautiful gardens. Our lungs were filled with so much fresh air!

I was so impressed by their restaurant. Mesastila emphasize on fresh, and healthy food with low fat options. They used vegetables from their garden and it tasted really good! They also had a great kid’s menu and the staff were so friendly. We sat at the same table each night, which was outside, next to a big lawn. We let our kids run around and play while we waited for our food to arrive. Even in the dark, we all had a great time together.

We didn’t bring our nanny on this vacation but we still felt like we had a relaxing break. I was lucky enough to have a 90 minute Hamman spa treatment at the spa after our children went to bed.

Fresh cocktail drinks were delivered to our rooms at night, so hubby and I could kick back, sitting on our patio in the cool night air. Bliss!

Through the hotel, we organized our own car to go on two day trips. We drove to Borobudur at 2.30pm in the afternoon to explore the ancient building as the sun was going down. It was a 1.5 hour drive and the crowds were less than the morning tour, where to see the sunrise, you have to leave your hotel at 3am! We had our own tour guide and took our time absorbing in the beautiful 9th century Buddhist temple.

There are approximately 130 steps in total, to get to the top of Borobudur but our kids actually enjoyed themselves. I thought the trip would be more difficult however with the timing that we chose to go (after lunch and their naps), everyone seemed to be fine!

Our other day trip was to a railway museum, Ambarawa Railway Museum. There we got to ride a real steam train that was commissioned on 1913! It was a scenic and bumpy ride through the countryside, along the river and villages. The train was busy and full of Indonesian tourists. Everyone was so friendly and we all enjoyed sitting next to each other, cramped in our tiny seats. We sang songs, shared biscuits and took lots of selfies together! It was such a great adventure!

All in all, I loved this weekend away and highly recommend Mesastila to other young families! It’s really opened my eyes to travel within Indonesia and how, with the right planning, it’s quite easy and enjoyable to travel with our three young kids. I can’t wait to do more!

Is it all worth it?

Ok I’m going to be real now. Is it all worth it? I’m sitting at home alone and thinking. I’m missing all of my friends. I’m listening to songs that remind me of my friends back at home who I continue to love but unfortunately it’s been so long, I know they’ve moved on. I want to pick up the phone and call them or send an email to say how much I still love them, but time has passed and it’s probably just going to be awkward.

I’m reminiscing of old times with my friends that I’ve met along this expat journey. I send them a note. Tell them that I miss them. Tell them how much I appreciated their time with me, even if it was so short. They too have moved on, into another country, dealing with their expat journey.

I’m texting my current friend who I adore but know that one day too, I will most likely have to say goodbye. Every time she says she has news, I catch my breath because she might be telling me she’s moving on and I will have to say goodbye too…

Then today I attended another going away lunch. We made promises to keep in touch and visit each other, should we ever happen to be in the same country again. My Facebook friends are building up but my physical friends are diminishing.

I am so blessed to have met so many wonderful people in my life. They truly stay with me forever but it’s getting to the point where it’s so difficult and I just want to keep still. I want to be bored and share those boring moments with same people who I won’t have to say goodbye to every year or so. I miss the mundane and normal life where nothing really changes. We all grow old together.

I know it’s a far cry from my expat life right now. It feels wrong to feel this way because I am so much in love with this moment. But is it worth it? Is it worth the pain of constantly staying goodbye, trying to stay strong and focusing on the positives? I’m not so sure anymore. Tonight, I’m questioning all of this and have no answers. That is my Expat Housewife dilemma.