Lola is stuck in the traffic of Jakarta. The largest city in Indonesia has 25 million inhabitants and it is three o'clock in the afternoon. She had a lunch date with her husband and friends. Now, all roads are blocked - there is nothing she can do. After guiding the taxi driver through the streets of the Indonesian mega city and finally arriving home, Lola talks about her life in Indonesia over a cup of tea. Her daughter Mila and her son Noam come by every now and then and wave into the camera, ask their mother in English what food they can eat and Lola replies to them in German, that they are supposed to take a bath first. She speaks in Indonesian with the nanny and asks her to give a bath to the children before eating. Then she begins to tell her story.
Lola was born in the late 80s in Pforzheim. The small town is located on the edge of the Black Forest in the south of Germany. Her mother, born and raised in Pforzheim, meets Lola's father early in life. He is Sicilian and came to Germany as a guest worker at the age of 14. The two are young, couldn’t be more different and they fall in love. Shortly after they become a couple Lola's mother get’s pregnant at the age of 17. Nine month later, Lola’s big brother is born. Eight years later, her big sister follows. Another two years later, Lola is born as the youngest of the family.
Lola grows up in a house with two cultures. Her father is loud, with a caring heart and loves to invite many friends to their house. Lola's mother, typically German, is loving but rather restrained and likes to have a more quiet life. Her father tries to speak Italian with his children, but they rebel and so Lola will not grow up fully bilingual. Nevertheless, she loves languages, she finds it easy to learn and, after learning English and Spanish at school without any problems, she wants to learn more languages. Even her school friends come from different countries such as Turkey, Kosovo or Italy. Many languages and cultures are part of her everyday life.
The high school graduation is easy for Lola, she is good in many things, but that is why she is unsure what her future should look like. She has already admired successful entrepreneurs during high school, she dreams of making a great career as a business woman, to have success and to earn a lot of money. Her father is a painter, her mother is a nurse for the elderly and both don’t have a school diploma. Lola is the second one in her family with a high school diploma. She wants to make a career.
After school, she works in a beach bar and clubs. Besides, she does research on study programs and reads economic magazines. It is the year 2005 and the newspapers are full of articles about China, the new economic power. Lola tries a Chinese course on a CD Rom and decides - learning Chinese is too complicated. But Asia doesn’t leave her mind. One of her colleagues talks fascinated about his semester abroad in Bali and tells her, how easy it is to learn Indonesian. A few weeks later, Lola is going to London as an au-pair. In that time, she happens to meet an Indonesian and they become friends. After she returns to Germany four months later, she has made a decision: she wants to study economics with languages. She applies to different universities. In 2006 she moves to Lake Constance and starts her studies: Asian studies and management with Indonesian.
In her studies, Lola chooses Indonesian, although until now she only knows Indonesia from illustrated books. Many of the older fellow students have been there for semesters abroad and report enthusiastically about their experiences. But Lola wants to know it herself. After two semesters, she takes a vacation semester and flies to Jakarta. The capital of Indonesia is a metropolis of millions, the traffic is immense, the air pollution high, but somehow Lola feels right at home. She travels through the country, she joins a language course and does an internship for a few weeks. When a friend drives her back to the airport six months later, she cries bitterly. Back in Germany, she doesn’t feel well. Everything here annoys here and feels complicated. Only when she attends a course on intercultural communication in the university, she realizes that reintegration into one's own country can often be more difficult than integration into a foreign country. She has to stay in Germany for two more semesters, then the time has finally come and she can do her obligatory year abroad. The whole university course travels as a group and decides to go for Malaysia. Lola studies on the island of Penang, the second largest city in Malaysia and lives with two fellow students in a student apartment. On her 23rd birthday, Lola and her friends decide to visit another friend in Jakarta, who is doing a semester abroad there. Lola is looking forward to the city, which she has fallen in love with a year ago. Everyone wants to celebrate, Lola's friend gets a tip regarding a VIP party, in which there is the possibility of getting through a back door and suddenly the four girls are in a club in Jakarta, dancing and celebrating. Lola is approached by a Brazilian model. He tries to impress her, she is annoyed. Her friend speaks Portuguese and Lola is glad when they get into conversation. Suddenly the Brazilians' friends appear and Lola meets Daniel. Lola is tall, blond, beautiful with big, green eyes. She is used to getting a lot of attention in Indonesia. But she likes Daniel right away. He is also tall, has a striking face, is Indonesian with Chinese roots and a well-known entertainer in the media world of Indonesia. Of course, Lola has never heard of him before. They talk, joke, exchange numbers - but by the next morning, Lola is already traveling back to Malaysia and after a few short messages on Facebook, the evening just remains a funny memory.
After half a year in Malaysia, Lola is going to Jakarta again. She will be doing a six-month internship at a Swiss Foundation for Development Cooperation there. But her friend from the party has already returned to Germany and many other friends that Lola has met during her previous stays, are no longer in the city. Lola wonders, if she knows someone she might contact - then she remembers Daniel from the party.
Most recently, she had hidden his comments on Facebook for posting too many strange things in Indonesian that she didn’t understand. But she remembers that she was nice and they make an appointment for lunch. One lunch get many more lunches. And eventually lunch turns into a dinner and their first real date. Daniel invites Lola to a German restaurant. She has to smile, because that's the last thing she missed - German food.
The two fall in love and Lola separates from a long-distance relationship in Germany. Lola is 23, but with Daniel she can imagine anything. Marrying, having children - the full program. Daniel is a family man, early on he introduces Lola to his parents and involves her in his whole life. Lola is happy with him and they spend the remaining three months close together. The fact that Daniel is prominent is only slowly realized by her. In Jakarta, people are used to running across prominent faces, but once they get out of Jakarta, the fans become more intrusive.
As Lola's time in Jakarta comes to an end, the two have already planned their future. Lola will graduate from her last semester in Germany and then move in with Daniel in his apartment in Jakarta and write her bachelor thesis in a company. The farewell is difficult, but the prospect of the future makes Lola happy.
Some time after Lola returns to her university city, Daniel comes to visit her. But then he gets weird. When they talk on the phone one day, he suddenly breaks up with her. Lola doesn’t understand. She can’t believe he got cold feet, after having this wonderful time together. The upcoming weeks are terrible. Lola drags herself to the university to write her final exams and cries a lot. She feels left alone - all her plans for the future together with Daniel in Jakarta are gone.
But her flight back to Indonesia is already booked, as well as a joint trip with Daniel to Australia for visiting a friend.
Lola doesn’t want to let this break-up destroy all her plans. If not with him, then without him. Lola is changing her plane ticket from Indonesia to Malaysia and is looking for a company, where she can write her bachelor thesis. She can stay with the mother of a close friend in Malaysia, who is happy about company. She hasn’t seen Daniel since the breakup. She knows he has a new girlfriend. Whether he will also take his booked flight to Australia, she doesn’t know.
It soon becomes clear: Both, Lola and Daniel, will start the journey. The mutual friend Cristiano lives in Melbourne, he has only one guest room and wants to bring Lola and Daniel together again. The reunion after many months confuses both. He wants to get closer again Lola is hurt. She doesn’t get what he wants. After she is back in Kuala Lumpur, she writes an e-mail to him. He has one week to think about what he really wants. Two days later, she regrets the message and writes again: she doesn’t want to wait for an answer from him, but to live her life without being emotionally attached to him. Whatever it was between the two of them - it's finally over. Lola wants to forget the pain and concentrate on her future.
Ten minutes later, the phone rings - it's Daniel, he doesn’t want to loose her. He takes the next plane to Kuala Lumpur and begs Lola's forgiveness.
It is the end and the beginning of a difficult time. Deep inside, Lola believes Daniel. She knows, that he has thought much more about their relationship and about living together in the future than she has. She knows, that when he wanted to let Lola into his life, he wanted to be sure - because then it should be forever. But there has already been so much gone wrong. Lola is deeply hurt by everything that happened.
She moves in with him, but the fresh couple argues a lot. Sometimes, she is so angry that she throws whole glasses to the floor in her outbursts of rage. Lola struggles with herself. She wonders why she is with him, forgiving him, even though he hurt her so much. Her pride is hurt, the disappointment is deep. Nevertheless, she somehow feels that he is the man she wants to be with and that he has a good heart and that both of them can have a future together.
"Now, looking back on that after seven years of marriage, I can say that my intuition was right. But it was a very long process and a spiritual journey, of two people who were very superficial and slowly found their way into the depth together. But it was worth it. "
The wounds heal slowly. Lola and Daniel now live together in his apartment, she thinks about how to write her bachelor thesis, gets to know more of Daniel's friends, sometimes she accompanies him to the set. She has always loved Jakarta, despite its negative aspects, now it has become a home for her. Half a year after getting together again, Lola and Daniel are once again invited to a wedding, this time by friends from Singapore. Lola captures the bridal bouquet for the third time in a row, Daniel's friends laugh and whisper secretly. As Daniel enters the wedding stage in front of the 1000 guests and asks for Lola's hand, she has no words. In August 2011, the couple, atypical for Indonesia, marry in a small circle in Jakarta. Lola's brother from Germany comes to the wedding. The parents stayed in Pforzheim - the flight is about twenty hours and is not very appealing to the mother. Also, there will be a big wedding party in October in Germany.
Shortly after the wedding, Lola becomes pregnant. She is now 25 years old, lives in Indonesia, and lives a life as far from the lives of her German friends as possible. The pregnancy is going well, but Lola's body is changing a lot and it's bothering her. At the last possible date she is submitting her bachelor thesis. When Mila is born in a hospital in Jakarta, Lola is fascinated and surprised - the little one looks quite Chinese like her father, but doesn’t seem to have any similarities with her at first. At the same time, she feels a love for this little creature she has never felt before.
The first months and weeks are tough. Daniel cares deeply about the baby, but Lola has the feeling that she exists only for the child. Before the birth, she was independent, spontaneous and sometimes traveled here, sometimes there. Now all focus is on this little creature, her own desires and needs count little. After three months, she flies with Mila to Germany for the first time, to introduce her daughter to the family and the German friends.
For the next two years, Daniel and Lola travel around the world with Mila. Daniel is a great dad and husband, they have a wonderful daughter, a nice apartment, cars, money. Lola, who loves to bake and cook, also founded a café shortly after Mila's birth with a friend, which quickly becomes well known as they sell German cherry crumble tart. Lola has high expectations on herself. She wants to be a good mother and successful as an entrepreneur. Her earnings are low compared to Daniel's, but she clasps desperately to her business so she doesn’t feel like a housewife and mother. But when she works, she feels bad because she doesn’t spend time with Mila. When she's with her daughter, she thinks she has to be a better mother or spend more time in her café. In the end, she can’t enjoy either one or the other.
Slowly, Lola feels increasingly empty. Somehow, she has lost access to her feelings. She feels weird, constantly with a lump in her throat, can not feel gratitude. Often she feels as an observer of her own life. "I have everything and I'm so empty," she thinks and feels even worse. She tries to distract herself, to read books, to do yoga, to find herself - but nothing helps.
Daniel grew up Catholic and so they go regularly to the Sunday Mass. Daniel proposes to change to an English-speaking church, so that both can identify better with the mass. Lola now speaks good Indonesian, but understanding the Indonesian pastor has been always difficult for her. But when Lola is in the English church for the first time and everyone starts to sing, she feels the lump in her throat again. She has to get out, feels her sadness will overwhelm her. This is how it is every Sunday and Lola remains silent.
But at some point she thinks, "What's does it matter, if the others see me crying?" She doesn’t know the reason for her sadness, but it can’t go on like this. The next Sunday, she starts to sing with the others and the tears run down her face. For months, she sings in church on Sundays and cries. Slowly, her feeling are coming back. Singing is like a therapy for Lola. Since she has had her daughter, she is much more vulnerable. After allowing her tears, the feelings slowly come back: gratitude, joy, forbearance, with others but above all with herself.
"Being a mother was a hard task and a spiritual journey for me. It was hard, because I didn’t know how to put myself back like that. After my childhood, during which I also had some bad church experiences, I really did not want to know more about church, but that helped me to feel myself again.” Three and a half years after Mila's birth, Noam is born and the family is growing.
Lola is a young mother, most of her friends in Indonesia, and especially her friends in Germany, do not yet have families and live a different life. "When you have children, you come across a lot of incomprehension, because many others are in a completely different life situation. It is sometimes hard not to put too much pressure on yourself and simply enjoy the time.” For Lola, learning to deal with fears and trusting oneself is a process. "Many women tend to want to have everything under control, because then of course you feel safer. But once you have children, you suffer a loss of control and fails to your own ideals. Then there is the society as well, that puts you under additional pressure.”
Lola feels like she's constantly failing. Only slowly, she learns to be grateful and to reconsider her expectations. She realizes that she doesn’t want to and can’t build her life on fears. Even though her friends back home in Germany think, she should be economically independent. She decides to get out of the coffeeshop and take time for herself and her children. "I have to ask myself what is important to me at the end of my life. And I don’t care, if anyone can say about my life, that I had a great work-life balance and juggled life between career and children so well. I want my children to be grateful for what I have been able to give them and that my husband can be grateful to have been by my side. I want to have a positive influence on other people and not have to bend myself for society."
Lola listens more and more to herself and acknowledges when she needs to rest or time for herself. She learns to express her feelings and thoughts, to communicate them more quickly and to talk to Daniel about her fears and feelings. It is now less about the opinions of others, whether they come from Germany or Indonesia. She doesn’t want to justify spending time with her kids instead of pursuing a great career. She is aware of her privileged situation, but she doesn’t want to be ashamed of it.
Lola has grown in recent years, has become stronger and more than ever the woman she wants to be. She still sometimes struggles with the challenges of motherhood. She still feels sometimes judged by others. But now she's dealing with it differently. "For me, a strong woman is someone who allows herself to be what she really is. One who works on herself and also allows pain, because she knows that it brings one further and that many things are a learning process. I became stronger myself by facing my pain. I don’t shut down feelings anymore, I look at them and then I let them go.” Lola now knows, that being strong doesn’t mean having everything under control. She is honest with herself, gets help when she needs help and also delegates responsibility.
For Daniel and Lola caring about their relationship is very important. They are convinced that their children can only grow up happy, when they are doing well as a couple. They read books, discuss a lot, do marriage seminars. Both have already experienced a lot together. They have learned to forgive themselves, to put their own ego back, to fight for their relationship. "I took Daniel with his culture, his problems, his injuries from the past, and he treated me the same way. There is no love without pain, no marriage without problems. If you want to live without pain, you also shut off the good feelings. Relationships are always a risk, because you become vulnerable."
Lola is grateful for her life in Indonesia and her family. The cultural differences are a great asset to them, even if many things run quite differently than in Germany. But Lola's life is in Indonesia, where she feels comfortable and more relaxed than in her country of origin.
"We brought two cultures into our marriage. Now we have created our own family culture. That's very nice, because we simply took the best out of both cultures and integrated them into our lives. The beauty of it is, that in a family with multiple cultures, there is never just one perspective, and you have the opportunity to make different choices."
*Lola lives with her family in the South of Jakarta. She doesn't plan to go back living in Germany ever.