‘In the end God decides what happens’

Gita Melisa (28) is a flexible Muslim living in Banda Atjeh, one of the most beautiful and religious parts of Sumatra. Two months after she met her husband the got married on her twenty-second.

What is your background?
I was born in Banda Atjeh, when I was seven years old my parents divorced, I lived for three years with my grandmother before I moved back with my mom and stepfather. During my junior en senior high school I moved to Sabang, where I lived for six years. When I graduated I did a master to become a notary and I’m currently doing a second Master of Law. Banda Atjeh is one of the most strict Muslim area’s on Sumatra. I started to wear a headscarf when I turned 15. I’m proud to be a Muslim, it’s a way of life. After the tsunami happened in 2004 we had to start all over again. Everything was gone, our house, our clothes, our school, our whole lives. We started from 0 to build up a life again. At that time I realized as humans you can try to plan everything but in the end god decides what happens. Six years ago I met my husband my cousin introduces us. In the Islam it isn’t allowed to have a boyfriend or show your feelings when you’re in love with someone. So we decided to get married straight away two months after we met. We have a beautiful three-year-old daughter together, called Swalia. But being married with someone you didn’t really know on forehand is very difficult.

Where do you stand in life?
I’m married for six years now, but I’m not happy in my married life. My husband and I don’t have a good connection; we haven’t got anything in common. The main reason why we are still together is because of or daughter. It’s very difficult to live a happy life in this situation. I feel stressed all the time when I’m around him. I try to not be my life only about him. I surround myself with other positive people and try to find happiness in the small things in life. We’re talking about getting a divorce. But when we think of our daughter, we want her to grow up in a family and next to that in the Islam it’s permissible to divorce but God will hate you for it.

Are you familiar with the 30 years dilemma?
I am not familiar with a 30 years dilemma, but I do have had a 20 years dilemma. According to the Islam, when you get married you’ll also have kids immediately. But I didn’t want to rush into having children. I had so many plans for myself I still wanted to do. I always had in mind having a baby around my 33th. Especially in Atjeh people are really religious, I am a more flexible Muslim. But after a three year long discussion with my husband I settled and got pregnant.

How do you see your future?
For the future I have a positive mind. I think a divorce for us is inevitable and after my divorce I see everything is possible. I would like to re-marry; a married life with a husband you feel a connection with is happiness to me. This time I would choose to find a husband according to the rules of the Koran, so I’m sure it’s the right one. The Koran for example describes to find a husband that is strict religious and arduous. As for my career I’m currently setting up my own office as a notary. I’m looking forward to have the freedom of being an entrepreneur instead of working for a boss. So I can make time for the hobbies I love. Since 2008 I am the tourism ambassador of Sabang and I love to put more effort in this job.

What wise lesson did your parents teach you?
My stepfather learnt me to workwise do what you love and go for it. He always supports me.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I won’t give an advice to my younger self. Being a Muslim I believe that everything that happens is God’s will. There is nothing I would change about that.

When was your last moment of happiness?
Two days ago when I met up with an old school friend. We talked a lot about mutual interests and the future. I felt understood and a deep connection with my friend.

What does happiness mean to you?
Happiness is when you feel blessed. It’s a feeling of appreciation and to be able to find happiness in the small things in life.

Under the same sun is an ongoing travel log which you can follow on our travel and lifestyle blog Meet You at the Bridge. The reports show the similarities and differences on what it means to be happy for women between the ages of 25 and 35 who hail from different cultures.

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