I’ve been living in West Java, Indonesia, for over six weeks now, and I’m trying to do the impossible: make friends.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating and it’s not impossible as such, but it’s as difficult as I thought it would be. Mainly because:
1) I’m an introvert
2) It takes me a very long time to consider anyone a friend, even if I see them all the time
3) I started working three weeks ago, so now my time is being stretched thin and I have a lot less hours in the day to do anything let alone go out out into central Jakarta and meet people for salsa or book clubs or whatever else.
Yet I’ve prioritised meeting people above almost everything else, and that’s because I know I’ll need people I love around me in order for this to be a successful year away from home. My parents and mates from England know this too, and at least once every three days I’m hit with a ‘so have you made any friends yet?’ or a ‘are you going out with anyone this weekend?’ so they’re definitely spurring me on to actually reach out and make contact with others rather than spend my nights watching Insecure and Queer Eye with a hot chocolate!
But really and truly, I am beside myself in how I’ve managed to get to know others in such a short space of time, and with people I genuinely get on with rather than it being a product of circumstance, e.g. ‘you’re an expat and I’m an expat, so we might as well hang out even though we have zero interests in common.’ You know what I mean? Prior to travelling solo (which I began last year with a six week stint in India), I would never have had the courage to invite others out as I do now, and yet I’m now happily (though with slight trepidation still) asking others if they want to go to the spa together (because it’s incredibly cheap in Indonesia and I spend faaaar too much time there!), if they want to check out vegan bakeries, have coffee and dinner, watch films, drink beer… and I’m pleasantly surprised at how well my invites are received (thankfully, because I fear rejection as much as the next person does)!
However, I didn’t always feel relatively happy and mellow. A couple of weeks ago I was near tears to my beau, terrified that I wouldn’t meet anyone who would go out with me, or that if they did, it would be out of pity for the girl that had no-one. There were a few days as well when everyone was busy with their own shit, and I again worried and nibbled at my fingernails wondering if I would ever have anyone in the long run or if I should just settle for being on friendly terms with people but not being actual friends. You know, lonely. Yet now I find myself so busy that I’ve actually been delayed in writing this post and even cooking, as there’s been so many opportunities to go out with the people I would like to solidify relationships with. I might actually force myself one weekend to just stop and take a breather, try and have some time to accomplish some of my year abroad goals.
I know I lucked out too though, as it’s mainly because of the company that I work for that I’ve been able to meet a wide range of people and then choose who I would like to know more intimately. Firstly, I have housemates, housemates that are cool, and so we often go out together to eat, shop or whatever else (e.g. this weekend we’ll be going to a pork and beer festival, and obviously whilst I won’t be having the pork, I’ll certainly be having the beer!), and who introduce me to their friends too. Secondly, my company does biweekly expat events, whereby a different activity takes place such as heritage walks, cultural luncheons, etc. designed at getting new arrivals to meet new people and learn more about Indonesia. I’ve met up with a few individually for days out since the one event I attended and it’s perfect knowing others in exactly the same position as you. Finally, I’ve met a couple of Indonesian locals through work who are wonderful. All in all, I’ve met a lot of people in the six weeks I’ve been here, and now I’m trying to build true relationships with the ones that feel right, hence why I now feel quite busy! But I’m not complaining, I’ll take this over worrying about having no-one any day of the week. Again, I’m still surprised I’m even confident enough to ask people for their numbers and if they’re free for this and that.
One thing though… I’m spending money getting to know people, although of course, the expenses are relative to Indonesian currency and not home currency (because I’m still getting a good deal). But it’s money for dinners, brunches, coffee dates, museums, transport, shopping trips, nights out, etc. and I’m spending hella more hella quicker than I would at home because of trying to build the friendships. I’ve even had to cancel shopping plans because I’ve spent most of my money and I need to make the mediocre amount I do have last through my weekend (but shopping has been rescheduled for next week, so no worries there). Again, whilst I have no real complaints, maybe I should actually put myself on a budget. Do you find you spend more making friends than when you’re already mates?
I’m excited though, and although my mood still switches often in regards to how I actually feel about being here and not at home, it’s nicer that it’s less ‘OMG, how will I survive Indonesia,’ and more ‘wow, I may actually be able to do this.’ Sometimes I even find myself wondering if I could settle here for another year to make it two, but alas, those thoughts are fleeting because I still feel the tug in my heart to be next to my beau and have easy access to vegan afternoon tea.