Since I arrived here in Jakarta, this first blog post has been on my mind. I wanted to get started on it nice and early so I would have plenty of time to collect my thoughts and articulate them meaningfully. I didn’t though, because I kept feeling that something would happen in a day, or a few days, or a week from now that would be worthy of dedicating a blog post to. However, over the past few weeks, I have realized that. despite all the differences between Indonesia and Canada, much of my life here in Jakarta closely resembles my life back home.
Each morning, I still struggle to wake up at my first alarm and I can only crawl out of bed for the promise of coffee later. Breakfast is still often sacrificed when I have to rush out the door to make it to work on time. I still spend the majority of the day working and chatting while trying not to get distracted by all the weekend plans I could make. And after work, I still have the same debate as to whether I can make it through my workout without a snack or if I need to grab something on my way to the gym. Later in the evening, I still always manage to stay up just a little later than I intended to. I still think up a bunch of cool weekend trips to do on my days off only to remember that getting away is expensive and, for the sake of my bank account, I have to be selective on where and how often I go.
The differences in my life here are plentiful, probably more than I would be able to count, but they are less impactful on my day-to-day routine than the similarities. In Jakarta, I walk to work instead of driving my car and brace myself for the heat instead of the cold when I step outside. I am greeted by almost everyone I walk by on the street with warm genuine smiles. It is not uncommon for me to be asked for photos with groups of locals, and I can’t resist capturing snapshots of kittens during my walks. On weekends, I trade lakes or oceans for scooter rides to a nearby outdoor pool, where I can relax, read, and enjoy some sunshine. Perhaps the most significant change is that I eat out for most of my meals instead of cooking, as the street food here is delicious and affordable and my kost (dorm-style housing here in Jakarta) only has a double-burner hot plate for the entire building so cooking presents its own sort of challenges. Back in Canada, cooking and baking were a couple of my favourite hobbies so I find some evenings and weekends pass by much slower when I’m not in the kitchen. However, as I write this I have plans to finally head to the grocery store and start thinking up some one-pot meals.
Even though I’m here in Indonesia, it’s still surprising to realize that despite the move to a country with different cultures, economies, languages, and climates, my life is not drastically different. Before leaving Canada, I often found myself envisioning the idea of Indonesia and how distinct and different my life might be there. However, what I failed to consider is how much of our daily lives are consumed by routine activities: eating, working, sleeping, socializing, and fulfilling responsibilities. These aspects occupy a significant portion of my day here in Jakarta, just as they did in Canada.
As I approach the end of my first month in Jakarta, I want to share my current feelings and experiences. I’m gradually learning Bahasa Indonesia and every week, I realize that I’ve memorized a few more words and phrases. The Center for Indonesian Policy Studies and our colleagues have been incredibly supportive, welcoming, and helpful to me and my fellow intern Jake. They have helped us through everything from navigating the visa extension process, obtaining and setting up SIM cards, ordering at restaurants, and exploring the city.
Recently, I have been waking up and staying up for about an hour at 3 am almost every night – something I hadn’t thought much about until I mentioned it to my co-worker and friend Pascal and he told me that here that means that someone is watching you. For my peace of mind, I’ve decided to believe it’s the gecko I share my room with that has been watching me sleep each night. Nonetheless, when I woke up in the middle of the night last night I did not reach for my phone to check the time – I instead rolled over and quickly fell right back asleep. I hope that by the time it comes to writing my next blog, I am sleeping through the night again.
I simultaneously can not believe that it has already and only been a month since I arrived here. I am so looking forwards to the next five months and all the new (and some not-so-new) experiences they may bring!