Far from Java but Oamaru now home
Moving to Oamaru was a culture shock for Virly Trotter, but she talks to Ashley Smith why she feels lucky to be here.
Born in Indonesia, Virly Trotter loves adventures.
The eldest of three children from a small village in East Java, she describes herself as “the weirdest kid” in her family.
”I’m the only one who speaks English, and I’m really interested in Western life, living abroad.”
Ms Trotter moved to Oamaru almost three years ago with her Australian husband Dan, whom she met in Bali, and their son, Zachary, who is now 8. Their baby girl, Taaliah, was born here and is almost 5 months old.
Mrs. Trotter moved to Bali to work after completing her studies, to use her English and also to support her family as an eldest child. Mr Trotter worked in the mines in Western Australia and traveled back and forth from Bali.
“We kind of had a long-distance relationship,” Ms. Trotter said.
When Zachary was 2, Ms Trotter decided she was tired of being alone in Bali with a baby, so the three moved to the Gold Coast, where they stayed for about four years, before moving to Oamaru.
Mr. Trotter’s mother and her husband, as well as his half-sister lived in the city of North Otago.
“First, we just came here for a vacation, and I was like, ‘Ooh, I love this town.’ It’s nice, quiet, so different from where we used to live in Australia,’ Ms Trotter said.
”We used to live in Surfers Paradise. . . The time we spent on the road because of traffic – picking up from school and dropping off – was a nightmare.
The move to Oamaru came months before the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and the family felt lucky to be here.
”I mean Oamaru is one of the safest places to live right now, so far, compared to other cities and other countries. I feel pretty lucky that we decided to move here, actually.
So far, Ms Trotter’s family in Indonesia had not had Covid, but they were struggling financially and government support was non-existent there, she said.
Oamaru reminded her of her hometown, with its “cruising and relaxed” vibe, and was an ideal environment for her children to grow up in.
Shortly after her arrival, she started working in the Whitestone Cheese shop, from where she was on maternity leave, and had to learn everything about cheese “from scratch”.
”I like working there, I like to learn. Like, you know, my background, you don’t grow up eating cheese, so I have to learn. . . in order to explain to customers, because that’s what you do, basically.
She developed a passion for good cheese, especially blue cheese, and said she was “curious” when it came to all foods.
”I eat almost everything. . .That’s why I found it very interesting to work with Whitestone Cheese, because then I can learn and taste all the cheese.”
As a Muslim woman, modesty was important to the 33-year-old, who opted to wear a turban in public – a decision she made about three years ago. She preferred it to the hijab.
”I just like to wear it. . .I want to be modest and fashionable at the same time. That’s why I like to wear it my way, with my turban.”
She often received compliments and people asked her how she did.
“I tell them, ‘Yeah, that’s good, especially when you have, like, a bad hair day’.”
There was a small Muslim community in Oamaru, but no mosque, Ms Trotter said. They rented space for ceremonies, such as Eid al-Fitr, which celebrated the end of Ramadan, and also for Friday prayers.
She was teaching her son her faith, but said that when he turned 17, the choice would be his if he wanted to be a Muslim.
”We cannot force anyone to believe what we believe; we just teach.
”Also, with my husband, I just tell him what I believe. He is not a Muslim.’
Mrs. Trotter was also learning Arabic so she could read the Koran.
In her spare time, she runs a few different Instagram pages for a bit of fun, as an outlet to share family life, and as a way to experiment with videography.
”I am passionate about video editing. I love making video. I find it refreshing,” she said.
On her own page (@virly_trotter), she shares tutorials on things like how to wear a turban, which she says could help people, like those struggling with hair loss.
”Maybe I can help them a bit, at least.”
Another Instagram page, Sugar and Smiles (@sugarrr_and_smilesss), showcased another of her creative outlets — chocolate bouquets, cakes and other edible treats. She did more for friends and family, but thought it might eventually turn into a commercial venture on the trail.
Although there was a period of adjustment for Mrs. Trotter, with the different cultures, food and weather of Oamaru, she was getting used to it.
There were no plans to leave, just yet, although they might consider moving to a place like Christchurch when “everything is somewhat normal”.
”It’s just nice to live close to the international airport, where I can just step in if something is wrong with my family in Indonesia or Australia.
”At the moment, we still like living in Oamaru. It all makes sense now.”