Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Early March, Saturday afternoon. Outside temperature: -15 degrees celsius. I am sitting in my hotel room studying a manual on rescue diving. I am confident that I am the only person in all of Mongolia doing this. You can't get much further from an ocean than this.
I'm a bit fuzzy on the chain of events that led to this. But the result is clear - in a few days I will leave Aceh and move to Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, where I will support IFC's work in Mongolia. The thought of leaving Indonesia is actually painful. But the good news is that I'll be able to get my family back together. Because this was not a family post, we have lived apart for nearly two years. My daughter, now four, has become a native Russian speaker. And my son, now seven, has learned to read and write and Skypes me almost every day. I have missed a lot.
There are many things I had planned to write about but never did: camping with former GAM rebels, illegal logging, the delights of cycling among motorbikes, an Acehnese wedding, camping on a haunted, uninhabited island. And there were many things I never got around to doing. I suppose these will have to wait.
Aceh was a rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. I love it here, and I love living in Indonesia. I could stay here much, much, MUCH longer if it were possible to work out both job and family issues. But most of our programs in Aceh are drawing to a close, and I have successfully worked myself out of a job. So it is time to go.
I did manage to complete the rescue dive course. I almost drowned my partner in the process, but he survived and I have my certificate. I also went on a 51-meter dive to see a German wreck was able to take a camera on my last dive. I have some good photos, and better memories, to remind me of Aceh. And Mongolia? I am sure there are plenty of delights to discover there. Diving will not be one of them, but I will find them and experience them, with wife and children in tow.
So goodbye Aceh, goodbye Indonesia. I will miss my friends and colleagues, and the sheer beauty of this place. Sampai jumpa lagi, ya?