I remember before the birth of my baby I used to have the music blaring really loud around the house. The first house we were given at the time was huge, with many spacious rooms & large common areas. I’d be all alone on weekdays but it never bothered me because music from my favorite radio station would be playing & reverberating in all that space.
I’d be dancing like nobody was watching (because nobody was!) or I’d lipsync or do a spontaneous aerobic choreography. I’d laugh myself silly sometimes.
On most days that was how I’d combat extreme homesickness and severe ennui.
Fast forward to today (we’re in a different house now, sadly) and I actually forgot about my love for upbeat music up until a couple of months ago. I realized I could still play it loud around the house even with the baby, I just needed to use headphones! (How smart am I? Yup. Genius!😂)
Since then, at least for several days a week & whenever the baby’s asleep, I make sure I lose myself in a fantasy world filled with upbeat music (where I dance like Kimberly Wyatt) for a few minutes. My body is stiff and heavy from the lack of exercise but I do what I can 😉 😆
For today’s mini-assignment, after crazy-dancing myself breathless, I updated my playlist to include Trap music, music for walking & for working out. I love it!
Next mini-assignment: plan a weekend to look forward to.
Prior to coming back to Indonesia, I was reading a lot of expat blogs focusing on feelings of displacement, homesickness, sadness and other such expat woes. It helped a lot in bringing the size of the problem down to ordinary proportions. Knowing that what I was going through is normal for expats, and reading stories of those who have gone before me and flourished despite the homesickness & displacement put me in my place, so to speak.
I was also surprised to find out that even those who’ve moved from one Western country to another (for example, US to Australia) would still feel depressed! Truly, I couldn’t relate to this because my ‘problems’ seemed bigger in comparison. For instance, the language, the lack of things to do outside the home, the sleepy nature of this whole place, and quirky things such as still having to eat with your hands at the local KFC outlet, finding squat-type toilet bowls in the malls (scary if you’re pregnant and not used to it), wait staff at restaurants forgetting your order or delivering the dessert before everything else (annoying if you order ice cream or lava cake like we do), and people freely jumping queues at an international ferry port without regard for others or authority.
At this time though, I’m over it. It’s old news. My eyes have glazed over. This hot momma is moving on ….
I’ve since come to a peaceful acceptance of all these things as simply part and parcel of my environment. Getting irked over them is choosing to be ignorant. Besides, focusing on things you have no control over is a recipe for misery. Sure, I’m still homesick, I still feel uprooted and have even come to accept that I might never find belonging in this country. That’s okay too. All the more reason to find ways to foster happiness any way possible.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all those blogs I was reading
In order to help cope with expat depression, we need to focus on these 3 things that are within our control –
create the future
create new routines
create happiness within
Did you notice that they all start with “create”? There’s so much power to that word, so much authority. And it doesn’t mince words, the ball is in our court.
Create the future
I read somewhere – again, I should’ve bookmarked it! 😕- that the future is not something you step into, it is something you create. And if all we have, honey, is an internet connection, then we’re ready to play ball.
Is there something you want to learn? Do you want to become something in the future? Chances are, there’s an online course or video tutorials for that and an online community too. If you’re fortunate to be in a country that offers live classes (in a language you speak), then use that as a platform to socialize and make new friends as well. Let’s get busy learnin’ and let’s amaze ourselves a year from now!
I keep a list of things I want to get into. Here’s a short version of it. I also have becoming IELTS certified, becoming a book editor and becoming a daycare owner – and I just keep adding more (I’ll narrow the choices down later). I’ve put all the major ones on hold though because of the (coming) new baby but once conditions become conducive, I’m going to tackle that list with gusto 👍😃
Create New Routines
Something about having routines that involve as much of our new environment as possible helps to anchor us to the new place.
I have to admit though that this is somewhat of a challenge for me because I haven’t found anything worthwhile outside of the home to ‘latch’ onto. But examples would include identifying a new favorite coffee shop you could visit every morning or twice a week for some ‘me time’, a restaurant you go to for dinners with your husband every Friday night, maybe a park to jog in, a church to hear service at, a library or hobby outlet to lift your spirits … Go out and explore. Let’s find those nooks and claim them!
Create Happiness Within
This one is what I’m all about at the moment 🤗 This is very easy to do and has the most impact, in my opinion. Simply ask yourself what would make you happy and do that. Or buy it. Like in my case, it’s real books that I can hold and inhale the smell of. I have to buy them online because there are no English books here, so buy them online I do.
It could just be as simple as creating a mood boosting morning routine. A personal treat every month to look forward to. Dance exercise videos. Throw pillows & curtains in favorite colors. Blogging. Starting a new hobby.
I’ve begun a project at home of surrounding myself with things that, in the words of Marie Kondo, spark joy. I tend to plants and see them bloom (or not!) under my care. I’ve begun buying stuff that help me cook better because -and this is new to me- there is satisfaction in preparing a good, well-thought out meal.
My goal at the moment is to make my my house a place I’d never want to leave 😀 I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that but the process sure is fun and worthwhile.
~~ oOo ~~
Give me some advice: Are you an expat suffering or have suffered from expat blues? What one or two things can you do right now to lift your spirits up? What have you done to create happiness away from your home country?
The other evening, to celebrate our 1 month milestone of being together in Indonesia, we had dinner at De Patros Seafood Café, another fine resto by the sea. I was feeling sassy and was looking forward to a great evening. But while standing at the parking lot shooting the above picture, things took a turn for the worse.
I failed to heed a car that wanted to park where I was standing, so naturally, I got honked at. Under normal conditions, that honk wouldn’t have affected me as I knew I was wrong to be standing there to begin with. But I was not under normal conditions, as I later on realized. I felt miffed, and I felt the unreasonable urge to stare down the stupid driver of that stupid car who did the stupid honking. Fortunately they hastened inside and the lady driver did not look my way.
The evening was beautiful. We sat al fresco and the food was delicious, certainly much better than at this place although this place is nicer (perhaps to compensate). We had an attentive waiter who actually made recommendations in his halting English, something I truly appreciated. Our daughter was in a jovial mood. The sky was clear and the evening breeze perfect.
But I was still miffed, and unfortunately continued to be so till yesterday 😦
The Universe must have found my funk royally silly because it sent me a surprise cheer-me-up gesture in the form of a monkey. Yes, a cousin of this guy was watching me from our balcony as I was feverishly cranking out more g-squares.
I thought at first it was a stray cat so I almost jumped out of my skin when I finally looked into its eyes. We stood there looking at each other for a while until I tried walking to it but, it quickly ran away Each time it would stop to look back at me I’d wave at it like it was a long lost friend 😀
It was just too funny. I thanked the Universe for bringing me out of my funk and realized I was just having one of those days. Relocating is uncomfortable and challenging and I’m on a roller-coaster of emotions. There are good days and there are bad ones. The bad ones are insidious. I don’t know when I’m in one until something happens and I feel an emotional reaction disproportionate to the stimulus. Think sobbing when watching videos from TheEllenShow.
But I’m getting there 🙂 For one, I feel truly lucky to have this blog to share my misadventures on. It feels like I have people rooting for me to find success and happiness. That’s another blessing right there ❤
My alter-ego Crankyrella has been making quite a lot of appearances this past week on account of feeling homesick. I’m keeping it together on the surface (like a lady should) but I noticed I’m irritable. Change can make me lose my zen like that, I admit 😖
Tops on my list of cryptonite is the language barrier which is making me feel claustrophobic. Of course I knew Indonesia speaks a different language but I was expecting a little English somehow. Well, that is not to be (at least, not in this part it seems) and I have resigned myself to the fact that my husband will have to explain everything the next time I go for a bikini wax as I am doubtful my translator app will be,shall we say,technically precise enough.
Fortunately, I get a little bit more settled as each day goes by and, mayhaps the weather has something to do with it too as it’s finally a bit sunny this morning.
Anyhow, I believe my sour mood is also aggravated by the total absence of exercise, I have been missing my daily shot of feel-good endorphins for a bit of a stretch now. I was thus very pleased to find out that this subdivision has a generous sized oval dedicated to walking, jogging, running, even biking. What’s more, it’s within short walking distance from our place. Score! 🙂
I absolutely love it! The openness of the oval lifts my spirits and allows my eyes to roam luxuriously over the surrounding hills and the wide open sky ❤I am glad to have found a perfect alternative to my home workouts. And who knows, maybe I can make a friend or two as I get more comfortable. At the minimum, I’m sure the daily treat of fresh, balmy afternoon air will soon lift me out of this funk 😉