The Expat Home


The children came home to find me sobbing on the couch.

“The most amazing thing has just happened” I told them while smiling through the tears.

If you happen to have a teen in your house right now you’ll know the look they gave me. “Mum’s lost it again. Here we go...”

In my mind it was miracle.

The message came through on the blog, via its Facebook page. It began in Bahasa Indonesia.

“Apa Kabar Ms Kirsty and family…Lasinah Indonesia”

I only knew one person called Lasinah, and I was pretty sure I’d lost her.  I’d met Lasinah in the days before Facebook, before constant connectivity. Days that included brick weighted Nokia phones that intermittently worked, and directions written on paper rather than pin drops on whatsapp.

In my mind Lasinah is 18 or 19, with a small child on her hip – but that was 15 years ago.

The message popped up again.

“Apa Kabar Ms Kirsty and family…Lasinah Indonesia” How are you Ms Kirsty and family…

Fifteen years ago when G and I were living in Indonesia our housekeeper  Yanti had approached us to ask if we could give Lasinah a job. Yanti had been working for expat families for years, she was very much the matriarch of our household. Everyone knew I was useless, it was Yanti who knew how to fix a problem.

With a driver, a team of guards at the gate, and Yanti to look after our small family of three, hiring another person seemed a little ridiculous.

“What would she do Yanti?”

“She’d help me. And she would be very good with the baby.”

“I don’t really think…” I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. Only six months earlier, as we were leaving Australia I’d declared I wouldn’t be one of those expats. We weren’t going to have staff. We were going to do it all ourselves. Yeah, yeah, stop laughing at me.

“She needs a job” the look in Yanti’s eyes made me realize I was being told, not asked.

She started the next week.

Lasinah was amazing with our little Lizzie. She’d make her giggle and squeal so loudly that we’d all stop what we were doing to watch on.

It’s a long story, as they sometimes are in Indonesia, but within a month we had Lasinah’s family living with us. It was better that way; we had accommodation, food and access to medical facilities. Lasinah’s son had been very ill. We muddled our way through broken Bahasa and English throughout our relationship – but we bonded through motherhood.

When we left Indonesia we could always reach Lasinah through Yanti. She told us where Lasinah was, what she was doing, if she needed any help. Over the years G would return to Indonesia and catch up, but then somehow with our moving and their moving, we lost them both.

I’ve tried to track them both down over the years with no luck. I knew that as time wore on they’d probably leave Jakarta (where the work was) and head back to west Java where they were originally from. I’d asked friends to put notes up on message boards. No luck.


Another message appeared on the screen.

“Ms Kirsty and Elisabeth sekarang di mana negara mana” Which country are you living in now?

I immediately burst into tears. “Oh my gosh! Is it really you?!””

I now have Yanti’s phone number, although I’ve been warned she’s now hard of hearing and is unwell – but I have Yanti’s phone number.

“Why are you crying Mum if you’re so happy?” I tried to explain it to the children.

I have Yanti’s phone number and with that I have a little piece of time that is buried deep in my heart. A time with my first baby, in my first expat location. Perhaps the biggest thing though is that it was my first experience of becoming a family with people I wasn’t related to. It was Lasinah and Yanti who taught me how expats and locals can come together. The cliche of being so different yet so much the same.

Our expat homes are made, moved, and remembered. We take them with us, like tiny time capsules in our psyche. They and the people who inhabit them are with us wherever we go.

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