It’s been about a week since I finally got home. Two weeks since I said goodbye to my exchange-slash-travel-companions. Three weeks since I left the country that had become my surrogate home for the second half of 2014. And things have been – to put it nicely – dull. So dull that time seems to pass slower and I can feel the familiar weariness slithering around.
Then my phone chimed and I got this link, a simple post from one my exchange friends. And I realized that I haven’t actually sit down and write again. Not a review, not tweets, but a proper post about my exchange experience. Because who am I kidding. I do miss a lot of things from that prolonged escape, including – but not limited to – the people that I spent those noteworthy moments with. So I suppose that a throwback is in order.
You know, one of the most overused response you’d get after you go back – aside from “when will you graduate?” or
(god forbid) “when will you get married?” (I seriously got asked this question a few days ago and I still can’t get over the horror) – is “how was the exchange?” or “what did you get from the exchange?” For those, I’d most likely pull a Rana. “So-so. Not like what I’ve expected, but it’s quite okay.” Maybe it’s just me being my detached self, but I didn’t actually feel anything mind blowing or life changing from those four months. No enlightenment of any sort. Nada.
Education wise, unlike the other exchange scholars, I didn’t experience much difference than my college life in Indonesia. The environment might be different – definitely more ambitious and grade-oriented than my peers in Komed – but I still faced them with the same laidback attitude. Sue me, but before I actually see the
(most likely) hot mess that is my grade (which would appear next Monday, JFYI), I’m going to firmly believe that I handled it all quite well. Oh I might not aced everything – or anything, for that matter – but I never did went there to study and I have enough faith in myself to state that I can actually do better. I just doesn’t feel like it. And I’m not going to talk about productivity because I’ve only succeeded in producing quite a constant stream of movie reviews or Instagram post. Nothing else.
There’s nothing much to say on the subject of culture shock and the harsh of adapting either. It’s either I’m that good in adapting to a new culture or that I haven’t fully experienced the culture of Singapore. Still, I can safely say that if I have to stay longer in Singapore, I wouldn’t mind. I appreciate that they keep their nose out of my business and spare me the stale chit chat or needless politeness. At least that part suit me well.
Then there’s the subject of being a minority, something that others seems to mused over. Well I’m going to be brutally honest and says that it doesn’t affect me at all. Nope. Considering my peers, my quirky – to put it nicely – self, and my social history, not being a part of the majority is nothing new. If anything, I found being a part of a minor religion comforting. There is freedom in being around people that know next to nothing about being a Moslem (aside that you have to do prayers and that you can’t eat pork or non halal food) and have none of those shitty prejudice about who you’re supposed to be. And there is pure solace in knowing that despite all that, they still respect you and your religion. So really, staying in Singapore only got me admiring how considerate they are to the Moslems as minority. Something that I can safely say is still a far-fetched dream in Indonesia, where people are spreading hate campaign based on simple differences like religion and false assumption. And don’t get me started on sexual diversity because it will only turn into a rant with a huge possibility of a blatantly obvious no mention to a certain someone that has offended me
(fyi, I will forever be holding it against you) so I will stray off that path.
Anyway, there really is no need to worry about being a Moslem in Singapore. Developing a habit of finding nursery room/emergency staircase/any possible place to do my prayer wasn’t that hard, and finding halal (or at least no pork no lard) food is also feasible. Although the latter is partly because I’m not too firm on what I could and couldn’t eat, but people never mind me asking and sometimes would inform me about non-halal food even before I ask. And every time they told me that I couldn’t eat there, I took it as a friendly reminder on my lack discipline. Most importantly though, my stay helped me being better at reminding myself to pray because no one else will and I’m starting to develop a penchant for praying together. So yeah, I don’t mind being a part of a minor religion in Singapore. It do me a lot of good.
But if I am to be brutally honest here, then I will have to confess on what I really got from the exchange, the two things that I terribly miss and can’t get over of.
It’s the freedom and the friendship.
Every time I’m back home, I have to adjust to the fact that I no longer have the simple freedom of being able to go out with anyone I want anytime I feel like it. Being home means I have to ask for permission before going out, and I have to put family’s plans into consideration. Also, it means less random alone getaway because, well, won’t you rather go out with your family if you’re bored with nothing to do? Plus, there’s the inevitable time limit even when I go out. There will be no such thing as staying out until past midnight – I’d be lucky if my phone doesn’t start ringing before 11.
And I guess that’s why I’ve been missing Singapore. I miss having no one to report to and no one around that bother judging when they found out that I stayed out late with guys (because face it, most of my friends there are guys). I miss the safety of being able to walk alone in the dead of the night and knowing that I will be safe. I miss the independence and reassurance that Singapore’s public transportation (and gothere) provided. I miss the impulsive me time session, or the unplanned hanging out moments. I don’t know why, but ever since I’m back in Indonesia it’s no longer that easy to just pick up the phone and got someone to spend time with me. Maybe it’s the timing, but I miss having my boring days get interrupted by those unintended lunch and dinner. Or the assuring knowledge that even when no one is unavailable, I can just go out by myself, a far more unappealing option here in Indonesia than it is in Singapore. At least I feel that way when I’m in Depok, given that the public transportation is a bit…unreliable. Here in Jogja though, I’m just too lazy to go out by myself because I feel alienated enough in the city that’s supposed to be my home, thank you very much.
There’s another kind of freedom that I’ve tasted there though. Being in a foreign country around people that know no shit about yourself is a very rare experience and I was delighted to have that chance. For once, I can just let go and reinvent myself from the start during the process of befriending those people. It was indeed a chance to get to know yourself better and find out who you would actually like to be. Well maybe not exactly who I’d like to be, but at least I managed to established a compromise of who I’d like to be and who I’m supposed to be. And to my pleasant surprise, it’s the me that those handful friends of mine had come to know during the short four months period.
Which bring me to the next point – the friendship. I never expected that I would actually found such remarkable friends. I mean it’s me, the awkwardly introvert with overly blunt exterior and lack of proper “feminine” manner. Making friends was never the top in my to-do list, and I spent most of my first month weeping over my friends back in Indonesia. But I guess I’m not good at being alone, because somewhere along the way I slack off and lowered my guards. And I am forever grateful that I did, because at the end of the day I found myself being surrounded by friends that probably are better than what I deserved. For they’re not only insightful and fun to converse with, but they also graced me with different perspectives and idealism, they dragged me out of my comfort zone, and they made me strive to be a better person.
Most of all, though, they make me feel comfortable around them. Comfortable enough for me to let go of myself and be careless, to share my honest thought, and let my candid affections out. I haven’t reach the point of acting cute (or maybe I have without me or them realizing), haven’t crank up the skinship level that much (because duh, it is impossible with most of them), and some times I still keep my much-too-frank-or-provocative-opinions to myself in favor of relenting to theirs. But I don’t concede in a nice way for a nice reason to a lot of people, and they are the few people that I could actually rely on. Weirdly, I feel safe and sound when I’m with them and they got me feeling like I’m being properly taken care of. Which doesn’t happen often. And is kind of scary, because I’m afraid I have become a tad too dependent on them. But still, such friends doesn’t come by often and I am planning to keep you guys around as long as I can.
So you know, thanks, the five of you: Chompunuch Chachaval, Diba Azmi Syarif, Jacky Chai, Nurul Wakhidah, Riza Herzego Nida Fathan. Thanks, for making my stay in Singapore far more than just bearable and for the countless memorable experiences that I’d be glad to reminisce over and over again. They say home is where the heart is, but my heart lies not with the place. It lies with the people that I lived there with. And because of you guys, Singapore was a very lovable surrogate home.
Also, honorable mention of some sort for the people that add more spectrum to my days and created noteworthy memories for me to remember. You make my stay even more enjoyable than they already is: Adi, Chris Qin, Christianne Noelle De Vera, Dimas Fauzi, Farah Nurshahira, Gerry Yulian, Katherine Peralta, Krissa Eunice Magdaluyo, Luthfi Nur Afifah, Naufal Elang Ciptadi, Nok Vithavone, Shreyansh Jain, Tendy Lesmana, Thoriq Salafi.
À la mort,
Saying goodbye was never easy when you’ve become attached. But let’s replace the “goodbye” with a “see you later”, yes?