Three weeks ago we jumped on a plane heading to England, leaving home only to return home. Meh, what is home anyway? The 280C heat of Jakarta, the mild winter of London or being with my family in the freezing snow of Istanbul?
Getting off the plane in Heathrow and feeling cold for the first time in months (in reality, it was only 150C), breathing in clear crisp air, buying a pint of full fat milk at the first opportunity… It did feel like home. I knew every road, the route to my Grandma’s, what to do in a supermarket, how to take the train. There is nothing like the familiarity of being in the place where you grew up. I could do everything all by myself without even having to think about it.
And that is what is so wonderful about London: it’s home.
But when you only have a few days, it’s also a never ending whirl of meeting friends and family. With so many people to see and so little time, we blocked out three days for just our friends and six days for family. And so followed days of non-stop talking, laughing, gossiping and smiling so hard I thought my jaw would break. And through it all was that wonderful sense of freedom: being able to walk, from Baker Street to Oxford Circus, grabbing the tube to take me to Southbank, getting off two stops early simply because I could. I was utterly independent and completely anonymous and it was wonderful.
And then it was Christmas: Midnight Mass, church in the morning, the Queen’s speech, a romp around Blenheim Park and…. PRESENTS!! Thank you to everyone for the awesome gifts – I can’t wait to get started reading all of the books.
The only mishap was missing the Nativity Service on Christmas Eve. Baba, Amaala and I had set out for a quick walk beforehand, but ended up lost in Blenheim for three hours. It got darker and darker and wetter and wetter. No umbrellas, no lights, no phone signal and batteries running out of juice. Not a good combination. I thought we would never get out! On the upside, we did see a lot of sheep, a particularly bright star (or was it the moon) and what could have been a royal manger (it was actually Blenheim Palace beautifully lit up at night). So, you know, maybe we saw the nativity after all…
Christmas was over all too soon and it was back to London for a last minute brunch with Daadi (Baba’s mum) and the Puppo Jaans (my aunties) and of course, my adorable baby cousin. And then we were on another plane, this time heading to Istanbul for a week of relaxation.
Istanbul is too amazing to put into words. High gleaming minarets rising above the skyline, cobbled streets leading up to fairy tale towers, the shining blue Bosphorous and Golden Horn, glittering domes every way you turn. And hot chocolate and Turkish pizza and kebabs and bread and more Baklava then we could possibly eat.
It was a week of walking and relaxing and laughing and eating. And, inevitably, freezing our butts off – Istanbul was cold. Like -10C, snowing cold. And I had a glorified cardigan as a coat and trainers that let the water in.
But the snow made everything bright and romantic and magical. We had amazing winter wardrobes and the chance to warm up and Instagram when we got home.
And then – Amaala’s Instagram came to an instant halt when she dropped her phone down the squat toilet in the Blue Mosque… It somehow slipped out of her back pocket – she swore she wasn’t using it at the time. Poor darling had to put her hand down the toilet to fish it out!!! Thank God I had flushed before she had entered!! How far would you go to save your iPhone?
So London, Woodstock, Istanbul, Jakarta. Four places in three weeks. And while I’m tragically sad to be back, it does feel nice to be home (?) again. There’s nothing like being away from a place to make you appreciate it more.
Join me next week as I start teaching English at the Learning Farm, an educational project outside Jakarta.