Hey fans – also known as my mum, dad and siblings – fancy meeting you here.
I’m going to pretend someone who doesn’t know me may just stumble across this and start with an introduction. Maleeha Malik, eighteen and about to embark on a year of absolutely NO STUDYING! (Praise the lawd). Although I can assure you that, having just finished the IB (International Baccalaureate) at the British School Jakarta (BSJ), adjusting to life without constant stress and coursework is extremely weird and not nearly as easy as it sounds. It’s been FOUR months and what have I been up to? Lounging on beaches in Bali, catching up with friends back in London, learning Indonesian in Jogja… Not very ‘gap year’, I know.
Still, a gap year huh. A year of pretending to be cool, independent and traveller-y. Trips all over Indonesia, stints shadowing doctors in impoverished hospitals deep in the jungle, teaching English in small schools by the beach…
So I went to Singapore.
For those of you who don’t know (if that is even possible) Singapore is mega rich. And very nice. CLEAN streets, no clouds of cigarette smoke and, my personal favourite, a working MRT! Independence at last! An absolute world away from the busy polluted streets of Jakarta with its crowded swaying buses and buzzing motorcycles. In Singapore, you actually have BIG parks. And pavements that people walk on. Which of course meant that I had a river of sweat pouring down my back. Luckily I was with Maggie, my friend from BSJ, who didn’t seem to care – she of course managed to always look fresh and lovely. (If you’re reading this, hey girl, miss you). Her favourite line (in response to my worried questions): “Maleeha, you can’t see the sweat patches”. I checked, there was definitely a MASSIVE dark green patch on my green t-shirt. Lovely.
So, four days in Singapore: good food, sightseeing and lots of sweat. Delish.
And then, it was back to Jakarta in time for Eid. Jakarta, home for the last ten months, with its busy roads, cool coffee shops and permanently smiling people. And Eid for the first time in a country of 240 million Muslims – what an experience! 200,000 people in the mosque for Eid prayers, men and women praying next to each other and Qurbani (the sacrifice of an animal) just outside. Watching an Australian sapi (cow), over a ton of prime beef, bucking around wildly as it was pulled to the ground by eight Indonesian men for its throat to be slit… It was an incredibly harrowing and moving moment, a true celebration of life, with the whole community watching, children running around and an overwhelming sense of life. Not something I’ll be forgetting in a while and definitely something everyone should see. It made me appreciate meat so much more and want to eat meat so much less. Although…
I ate lamb for lunch.
Join me next time for my attempts at preparing for life as a doctor at Budi Kemuliaan, a maternity hospital in Jakarta.