Orchids and Eyang: How Living Abroad in Indonesia Touched My Life

Orchids and Eyang: How Living Abroad in Indonesia Touched My Life

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I don’t believe that there are random coincidences; instead, I think every moment is a serendipitous sign that either strikes dead center to the heart or we blink too quickly, missing the message.

One year ago, I was at the Epcot Flower and Garden show when I came across these nearly hidden orchids.  Orchids remind me of my Indonesian grandma, “eyang,” as she would vigilantly care for hers with a tender caress and kind word.  Every weekend when I approached Jalan Penjernihan in Pejompongan, Jakarta I’d find eyang on the front porch cultivating her flowery children, a lusty wink in her eye.   Last year when I first stumbled upon the Epcot orchids, I messaged Ibu Nina, her daughter, to let them know that I was thinking of them.  I had not been in touch for awhile but those orchids spoke to me.  Two days later, I found out that my Indonesian grandma had just passed away that very weekend.

Eyang, an Indonesian term for grandma—not her name—was not a blood-related family member.  She was my adopted grandmother, who took me in as a U.S. Fulbrighter.  I lived in Depok, and almost every weekend, I would head to Jakarta—battling homesickness and cultural confusion—where she would cook me Dutch stew and welcome me into her huge household as a granddaughter.  We rang in NYE’s at her sister’s villa in the hills of Puncak where she casually snuck a forbidden sip of my beer, just to try it.  Only eyang had a coat that she wore to meet the Queen (yes, that queen), and could casually walk behind the counter of a famous cupcake shop without anyone telling her it was not permitted.  It was always my dream that when I returned to Indonesia for a visit, my husband and I would sit down to eyang’s Dutch stew.  Unfortunately, we missed that chance by less than a year.  My heart was broken by the loss and missed opportunity.

As we returned to Indo this past February, everyone in the family wanted to make me that Dutch stew, but it seems as though eyang has taken the recipe to the grave with her.  I guess it wouldn’t be the same, anyway, but bless their hearts for trying.  So as I walk through the orchids at Epcot this year, I whisper a silent hello to eyang and can only live my best life to honor her memory.

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