Hari Raya Special! 12 Years Abroad, Posisi Wuenak & Coming Home

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Bahasa Indonesia translation available here

I’m seated at the lobby of Parkroyal Hotel, trying to find a sweet spot on the couch. In several minutes, I’ll be meeting with Tessa for the first time. Tessa is based in our Jakarta office, but is here in Singapore for a regional training workshop. I’m fortunate that she has agreed to meet me at short notice. As the brass-colored elevator doors slide open, Tessa walks out looking confident and sharp. Her sapphire blue dress seems to lend her energy. She smiles as I do.

Tessa, or Egtheasilva Artella, is a Recruiter with Shopee Indonesia. With Shopee, she is responsible for campus recruitment, employer branding and our Global Leaders Program. She has visited and lived in over 30 countries for holidaying, education and work; Paris is her favorite city. She has since moved back to Indonesia permanently, a decision she made in consideration of her family and her need of a community.

Here’s a transcript of our hour-long chat, during which we talked about Europe, buka bersama (breaking fast together) and returning home:

Tessa as a student-traveler with the iconic Louvre Museum in Paris

Jocelyn Kaylee: Let’s start with Paris. Is the City Of Lights as romantic as the movies have us believe?

Tessa: Haha! Even for a solo traveler, yes. The lifestyle there is rather laidback, so I suddenly found a lot of time on my hands. I spent a significant portion of that freedom walking in and out of cafés – you really have to see the exquisite designer details with your own eyes.

Tessa living the Parisian summer lifestyle under the Eiffel Tower

JK: Sounds like Paris left an impression on you.

T: It definitely did. Visiting Paris has been on my bucket-list since the beginning of time. Getting to see and even touch the Eiffel Tower was understatedly surreal. I liked the city so much that I made a detour to revisit it – it simply had to be the place where I concluded my two years in Europe.

Tessa celebrating her birthday with her Masters course mates in Valencia, Spain

JK: You’re quite the dreamer! Two years in Europe – Paris was more than a vacation?

T: Yep! I spent six months in Paris. I was enrolled in the Erasmus+ Master in Work, Organizational, and Personnel Psychology scholarship program at that time, which meant that I got to do one semester in Paris, two semesters in Valencia (Spain), and then an internship in Ireland.

Tessa in Ireland, basking in the glorious view of Lough Inagh in Connemara, Ireland

JK: Wow, that sounds amazing! Any preference between Spain and Ireland?

T: Ireland, without a doubt. Don’t get me wrong – Spain is a very colorful place and passion really flows in everybody’s blood. I enjoyed the constant excitement of the city, though it did get overly-stimulating at times. Ireland, in contrast, is very peaceful and serene. When I’m in the open, I can hear birds chirping and the gravel crunching under my shoes. When I’m by the river, I can hear the river flowing and the trees gently rustling. And when I’m up in the mountains, especially on a day with clear skies, the grandeur of it all makes me feel so small that all my worries immediately fade away. That’s when I’m fully present with myself, being able to get in touch with what I’m really feeling and thinking underneath the daily hustle. You have to visit Ireland some day!

JK: Ireland’s tourism board should get you onboard as their tourism partner or ambassador of sorts! Did you consider continuing your full-time career in Ireland?

T: Well, I didn’t. Not even for a moment, because I really missed home. Ireland was the last leg of my two years in Europe; by that time, I had started missing my family too much. I’m very independent and I like being able to do everything by myself. But the days abroad, having no one to return home to, had gradually lost its glamor and appeal. I just wanted to go back home where people spoke my language, where my favorite food were around every street corner and of course, where I know I’m loved the most.

A scrumptious home-cooked meal by Tessa’s mom

JK: Was it that easy exchanging your independence for family and home though? I personally struggled to do that when I was living in the States.

T: Haha! I can understand your dilemma. When I was living alone in Europe, I had no curfew and could go in and out as I pleased. But in Indonesia where my family is, I get calls from my parents at 9 or 10pm asking why I’m not home yet.  It took some time for me to get used to it. But then I think to myself that I get to eat my mother’s cooking, spend time with my family and hang out with my friends whenever I miss them. There’s freedom in that too, no?

Tessa and her friends at one of their cosy dinner gatherings

JK: Well, you’re giving my non-sentimental nature a lot to wonder about. Anything else you’re particularly grateful for?

T: Hmm… Our language? I know that’s not saying much. Language is something very intuitive, something that literally rolls off our tongues. I admit to taking Bahasa Indonesian for granted, until I went away and had to speak the language of the majority (English) for 12 years. Now that I’m back in Indonesia, I can freely speak in the language I was raised in. I’m still catching up with slangs though. My friends at work have been very proactively teaching me slangs that have been created in my absence.

Tessa and her fellow recruiters catching up over a break fasting dinner in central Jakarta

JK: Any slangs you can teach me?

T: Tentu saja (of course)! Let’s see… There’s P.W., pronounced pay-way. It’s an abbreviation for posisi wuenak , which means “comfortable position”. Next time you’re found your sweet spot on the couch, and someone asks you to get up and retrieve something, you can say “gw udah P.W. nih, lu ambil sendiri aja” (I’m already in a comfortable position, just get it yourself). Mager, or short-form for malas gerak, will work just as well for the same purpose.

JK: Haha! This is so much fun! What else?

T: Hmm, the linguist in you will like this. Woles aja. Say ‘woles’ backwards?

JK: Se-low. Slow?

T: That’s it! Woles aja means slow down, as in “slow down, relax”.

Tessa and her People Team taking time off work to bond over food

JK: Haha! This interview is quickly becoming a crash course. I suppose slangs and a common language must make work very enak (comfortable) for you?

T: Indeed. It’s different being in a community that is more homogenous than diverse. When I was in Europe, I had friends and colleagues from China, Iran, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Spain, and other places. We had a great time chatting about our lives, sharing local food and exploring the city together. I didn’t notice any specific lack or difference, until I moved back to Indonesia and there’s buka bersama (breaking fast together) in my workplace. I’ve had to do it alone the past 12 years; having a community to break fast with is really heartwarming.

Speaking about heartwarming, sedekah (giving alms) is probably most apparent in Indonesia. Perhaps because Islam is the largest denomination here, everyone is more mindful of practicing sedekah, which is central to Ramadhan.

Tessa and her work friends’ buka bersama at a Ramadhan-themed Orange Day

JK: Will you tell me more about buka bersama and sedekah?

T: Of course! Buka bersama marks the end of our daily fasting during this Ramadhan season. Bersama means together, whilst buka in this context means to break fast. As the sun sets everyday, we will wait for the azan (prayer call from the mosque) and break fast together. It’s fun having that lively, happy element, as opposed to silently breaking fast on my own.

As for sedekah, it’s basically the collection of merit through the giving of alms, especially to those who are in need, forgotten or invisible. Companies here are doing a fantastic job at encouraging sedekah through their corporate activities and consumer-facing mobile apps too. All I have to do is look for a cause and/or organization I’d like to support, and then tap a button to transfer my sedekah immediately. I love that companies are using technology to create a platform that facilitates and encourages giving.

Tessa and her work friends dressed to the nines in contemporary batik outfits

JK: That’s pretty awesome. No point enjoying your own prosperity without looking out for others, right? Are you looking forward to Hari Raya Idul Fitri, since it’ll be your first in 12 years?

T: Well, this year does feel a little more special, since it’s the first in a long time as you’ve rightly said. Previously, I’ve gone home to celebrate Hari Raya Idul Fitri with my family as often as I’ve could. Yet, this is the first time in years that I’m spending the entire Ramadhan month with my family. I get to hang out with friends and eat the most delicious meals too, so I’m contented!

Tessa showing her foreign Chinese friend around Candi Prambanan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

JK: I’ve noticed contentment as a common trait amongst most of, if not all, my Indonesian friends. Have you noticed that about your friends and yourself?

T: I realized it when a non-Indonesian friend brought it up in a similar conversation, but never beforehand. Since my return though, I’ve begun observing Indonesians more closely. Having lived in other countries, I’ve had enough encounters to conclude that Indonesians generally have a greater heart for service. We build emotional relationships and consciously help each other out – some people do practice transactional once-offs but that’s really not the majority. Wow, reflecting upon your question makes me really happy to be home. My P.W. is definitely here in Indonesia.

Tessa on a domestic travel trip to Bali

JK: This is a beautiful moment. Shall we leave you to further reflecting? How about we conclude our conversation with some advice for your fellow Indonesians?

T: Yes, let’s do that. If you’re a young person, pack up and go explore the world out there. You’ll meet many people who are different from you – when you become the minority, you’ll learn tolerance. You’ll be forced to consider the same situation from another perspective, and that’ll teach you to become more patient, more mature. There’re many options for scholarships available these days – consider the possible pathways and just go. Expand your knowledge and insights – you’ll be very thankful that you left your comfort zone and pursued a comparatively more difficult path.

And if you’re an Indonesian working and/or living overseas, ayuk pulang (let’s return home). There’re many opportunities for returning to Indonesia right now – many companies here recognize the unique value that people who have worked overseas can bring, so make use of these chances and come back. We’ll wait for you to buka bersama and welcome you home with open arms 🙂


Are you out in the world and looking to go home? Shopee can help straighten your path. Get in touch with us at https://careers.shopee.com/.

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