When I first came to this big city in a large archipelago, people called me ‘Missy’ . Now, its been over a year, and they use ‘Mbak when they address me. In translation: Missy and Mbak are about as different as ‘a young girl’ and ‘a lady’.
That’s what this place has done to me.
When I packed my bags and made my way here over a year ago, I hadn’t expected my stay to be a year long. What I had not expected even more, is for this place to affect me the way it has. I have learnt a whole lot of life lessons: some grave and some petty ones. My learnings have ranged from knowing when to raise my voice to assert myself to developing the trick of chasing lizards away.
In due course of time, I realized various aspects about myself which I would have otherwise never known. I am OCD about keeping things in place, and keeping my house clean. I like to cook for myself, by myself and I experiment with recipes. I love Mexican food and sometimes even more than Indian dishes. I like typical Bollywood music, and my favorite song(s) play on repeat for days at length. Even my taste in books can pronounce me as a hopeless romantic. I like traveling, but I panic if you put me on a last minute schedule. When my head hits the pillow, the following day’s to-do’s jog around in my mind but the next morning I snooze the alarm at least five times until I finally get started. I use an old oregano container for holding my tooth-brush, and I sometimes forget to store peanuts and chips in air-tight containers. I leave my clothes in the balcony for just the right amount of time, lest they get dirty again due to the pollution.I change and wash my bed linen every weekend. I like to eat and drink alone. I don’t think its a sign of depression: its just quality time you spend with yourself. I have found my favorites in lotions and creams, herbs and spices; figured that my favorite pieces of garments are scarves and socks and even realized that I cry easily when I am alone.
I have learnt, figured out and realized all these aspects about myself when I stepped out from ‘Joy’ into Jakarta, and created memories which are dearly tagged #jakartajoys on my social media. The hashtag, I realize now: is the perfect amalgamation between where I came from- the City of Joy, and where I came to. It makes much more sense now, on retrospect.
As I pack to leave this place and go back to where I belong, I feel a slight pull in my heart for what I have shared with this not-so-foreign city. They say you pick up survival strategies when you live outside home. I think mine were more than just survival. I enjoy keeping lists and if I were to list out the odd habits I have picked up here, I think collecting tissues and coasters would top it all. I am not sure when the habit started, or from which restaurant specifically but I think I did it because that is my favorite pastime: eating out. I will easily be the most unhealthy person you have seen around, and when I eat I don’t give a dime about the effect caused by all the cheese, chillies and chips, dressings, drinks and dips. I have tissues from most diners that I have visited. Trust me, the pile of tissues I am carrying back home does not fit into one, single envelope. If I am searched at Customs, I’m not sure they will believe me when I give them my reasons. In fact I am not even sure what I will do with all these tissues that I take back!
I have made friends who have seen me grow tremendously. If God uses technology and fancy diagrams to record each person’s life, the graph of my growth will be most steep over the last one year. Most of my friends are from my workplace. They are the coolest set of people you will meet in this city. Each of them is different from another. Yet, how we manage to spend several hours together in one peaceful room, is a mystery to us all. During my time away, I explored the option of meeting strangers and took the safe way out when I used www.meetup.com. It helped, and worked partially towards adding to my local network. I found myself at nearby islands on three weekends in the last one year and I think this specific piece of statistical information says a lot about who I am. Nonetheless, they were fun trips that can plot nice memories on my graph of life.
As I bid adieu to this city, I look back at the past year well-spent and I can literally scroll through the moments in my mind. I can remember the times I have strived for vegetarian food in this all-eating place. I recall the various instances when I picked up the local language to make my point and I also reminisce the times when I got the translation completely wrong! As I head back, I hope I don't continue to use the Bahasa word for Thank You. (If I do say "Terima Kasih" in thanking someone, I hope I say both the words in unison!)
This is an ode to this city that will always be the city of my youth: to the times well spent, the hard lessons learnt, the well-served food at fancy bistros and the polite conversations struck in every BlueBird! To all the friends, I met here: I will see you, when I see you! :D