“Salam dari” (from) Jakarta, Indonesia!

I am baffled at how fast my first month has passed by. I write this to you from my balcony in Jakarta as I watch the glowing windows of the MRT fly past, listen to the evening call to prayer project throughout the city, and enjoy the warm breeze I once thought to be stifling. My experience here so far has been nothing short of amazing. Most notably, the generosity of the people I have met has completely blown me away. My colleague and dear friend, Haley Ham and I hit the ground running as we landed late in Jakarta due to our transit from Tokyo. From the moment we hopped into our taxi to head to our kost, we have been met with so much kindness from complete strangers-turned-friends. 

En route to Jakarta from Tokyo

Adjusting to any new place takes time, but I was told by my co-worker Natasya that “if you can adjust to life in Jakarta or Manila, you can do it anywhere.” Adjustment is a tricky thing– and everyone’s timeline is different. This was my first time moving out of my family home and my first time travelling to Asia. 

Jakarta initially felt like a bit of a wake-up call. The constant consideration of traffic, transit, air quality, water, language, and looking like a foreigner– a female foreigner at that– is often overwhelming. The wealth of unfamiliarity and discomfort I have encountered within the last month is something I am incredibly grateful for. Being pushed outside of my comfort zone was something I sought after and have indeed, found. 

I have been working at the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) as a Program Assistant. The organization operates as a think tank and seeks to make policy recommendations and provide policy analysis for Indonesia’s executive and legislative branches of government. My first week of work involved our attendance at CIPS’ ‘DigiWeek’ Conference, which brought together Indonesia’s key stakeholders to discuss and address issues within the digital landscape. 

DigiWeek was a unique way to start work– but hitting the ground running seems to have become quite the theme recently– and in some ways, this made our transition easier. The conference was a massive success and the turnout was high (the food was also incredible). 

I have also been involved in writing a literature review discussing food and beverage imports in Indonesia. Additionally, I am currently working alongside CIPS’ Events Officer to discuss upcoming side-panel events preceding the G20 summit, which will be held in Bali this November. Through this, I have had the privilege of meeting so many amazing co-workers who have been incredibly welcoming. 

More recently, I tagged along for CIPS’ work retreat to Lembang, a small village located in West Bandung. Our trip consisted of a five-hour bus ride– filled with karaoke, music, an abundance of Indonesian snack food, and a ziplining adventure. We spent the next day on an off-roading trail. 

The CIPS crew visiting the Cikole Orchid Forest
One of the few stable photos I took while off-roading
From the left: Sara, Reiner, Joyce, Haley, Keiran, Anthea

I came home with a few bruises, a sore arm, and best of all, an abundance of happy memories that I will cherish forever. Below is a photo of Natasya, my colleague and newfound friend who has shown me some hidden gems of Jakarta. 

Me and Natasya

Earlier tonight, Haley and I were invited to sit and eat dinner with Lili, a lady who lives in our kost (we call her our “Indo-mama”). This has slowly become a weekly occurrence, where Lili and I will cook together and eat on the balcony. I am so grateful to witness first-hand the generosity of others, many of whom have so little. Small moments like these have brought me the most joy during my time here. To even sit in the presence of others and hear their stories is what I value the most. 

At the beginning of my journey to Jakarta, I told myself I would approach this program with a completely open mind and as few expectations as possible. I wanted to seek growth and discomfort– but part of me was also seeking out this opportunity to find some idealized sense of happiness. I recently came across this quote that sums up my experience quite well.

“Ironically enough, when you make peace with the fact that the purpose of life is not happiness, but rather experience and growth, happiness comes as a natural byproduct. When you are not seeing it as the objective, it will always find its way to you.”


Looking forward to what lies ahead. Until next time.

– Keiran