Being an expat, I’m always missing home. But sometimes I’m missing some parts of home more than others.
For example, if I’m craving Caribbean food, I miss my Mum. If I’m wanting to spend a Sunday morning baking, I miss my brothers. If I’m desiring a homemade latte, I miss my Dad. And if I’m missing a heavy night of drinking and partying, I’m missing the friends I do that with.
But I’ve learned, being in Jakarta for five months now, what I can do to help those feelings.
And thank God for that, because sometimes I would be so overwhelmed with emotion that I would start crying during corpse pose in my yoga class cool down. (I’d heard before that yoga releases pent up emotions, but it became so frequent that every week before my class, I’d think to myself, ‘okay girl, you’re gonna cry today,’ and I’d have to accept that to gain flexibility).
I was quick to emotion those first few weeks. I felt fine on the surface, believing I was 100% coping by being completely on my own for the first time ever, and, don’t get me wrong, 70% of me was, but if anything happened, no matter how small – ‘oh shit, is that another cockroach?’ or ‘why won’t they let me join the gym yet!?’ or ‘I miss hot water!’ or ‘Why the fuck is this the third blackout in two weeks!?’ – I’d just start tearing up, freaking out and melting down. Too often in those first few weeks was I just exhausted emotionally, so much so that I actively longed for peace and started planning my return to London, considering only doing six or nine months of my contract instead of the full 12.
So whilst I was okay by and large, I was struggling: missing people and missing my home. I began counting down the weeks until I’d land back in England; until I shared a bed with my lover, had dinner with my family, gossiped with my friends, had easier access to vegan cake, that sort of thing. But then it was like the penny dropped.
It came to me about three months in, when I was sat in an upmarket Italian restaurant in the centre of the city drinking free-flow* gin and tonic with a group of other expats. They had a live band playing Adele and the decor, with its low lights and dark furnishings, was exactly the type of place I used to visit in London when me and my mates fancied treating ourselves. And it was as I stood there, tipsily singing in front of this gorgeous skyline with new acquaintances, that it suddenly hit me: I felt at home. For the first time since being out here, I’d finally felt 100% alright in my new city.
And so I hit a realisation; that doing the things I would normally do in London, helped me feel better, calmer, happier.
Since then I’ve made a point to do the kind of activities I usually would at home, here, and even though it’s eating into my money so much more, it’s worth it. Last week for instance, me and my housemates went to a fancy restaurant, had free-flow wine and then went clubbing afterwards. The next day I had beans on toast as a hangover cure whilst my mate ate McDonalds and we watched old episodes of Drag Race to pass away our nausea. It felt normal. The other weekend, we took a trip to a neighbouring town, going to hipster coffee joints and beautiful gardens to explore more of the island. Oh, and we also organise weekly dinners now – where we essentially cook an OTT, gluttonous three course meal every Friday – the theme being a different country’s cuisine. This week we’re doing burgers and fries – wonder where that comes from?
We’ve also decided that because we live just outside the main hubbub of Jakarta, we’re going to actively try and get to more restaurants that cater to cuisines other than Indonesian, which means weekly trips to the capital’s centre! I think we’re aiming for an Italian next Thursday, or maybe a Lebanese. I’m definitely spearheading this weekly dining adventure however, because I’ve only got seven months left and my restaurant list is growing and growing.
It’s certainly helped though, knowing that I’m going to be doing things that are my norm, rather than just going into work and then to the cinema, or to the spa, or to the smattering of malls that are nearby the house. Now I’ve got museums planned, cultural events and monthly trips, all with good company, because believe it or not, I’m very happy to say that I do actually have friends now. So I’m feeling a lot more settled nowadays, and definitely a lot happier, because those first few months were tough at times.
However, I am missing a specific person today. When I started writing this post a few days ago, I was in a balanced state – missing home as anyone would not living at home (it’s there in my mind, present but manageable) – but today I can feel it; its intensity, it’s weighing heavy on me. So I’m going to make some chai, light a cinnamon and pecan candle and either settle down with my book or listen to some love songs, which I never do, let alone to Celine Dion! I’m usually a System of a Down kinda woman! Although… I’ve been banging out the romantic hits a lot more lately, so I guess that’s how I now deal with missing the beau.
But either way, five months in to my new country and I have finally figured out how to cope with missing my old one. It took a small while but hey, at least it happened.
*Free flow is popular in Jakarta. You pay a set amount of money and have unlimited alcohol (usually wine, occasionally spirits) for a set amount of time (typically three hours). It’s very cost-effective considering how expensive alcohol is in Indonesia!