Another week at Karang Widya and I am stressed from teaching unplanned lessons, have a stomach ache from laughing too hard and am thoroughly sure that taking a gap year was the best thing I’ve ever done.
The week passed in much the same way as the one before – morning lessons, afternoons eating Magnums, Sundays spent exploring the local area.
Which brings me to our trip to Taman Bunga Nusantara. Much like the Kebun Raya in Bogor, this is a botanical garden. Fields of red flowers stretching as far as the eye can see, hidden lakes framed by willowy boughs, cool leafy walkways shadowed with green… It was the perfect opportunity to take more photos and laugh our heads off.
And risk our lives travelling there three people to one motorbike.
It was one of those moments that I really shouldn’t be writing about, not least because my parents read this. So let me just say, squeezing three butts onto a motorbike and not wearing a helmet for a twenty minute drive is really not the most sensible idea. Don’t do it. Still, no one died, no one was too scared and it was a really lovely drive – despite (or because of) being squished between Dhenny and Phun.
And then it was Monday and Phun received an email from her university. She has to film a short video on seven things she has learnt on her gap year so far. And so, in the true spirit of things, Phun and I have decided to take up vlogging.
(Insert totally cool absolutely hilarious video that cannot be uploaded due to technical difficulties – watch this space).
I think it’s safe to say that I won’t have much of a career as a Youtuber.
Seven Things I’ve Learnt On My Gap Year (so far).
- You can do anything if you put your mind to it… Just a few years ago I wouldn’t even talk to waiters in a restaurant by myself. Now, I spend my time turning up in new places, having to sort out cancelled flights and being brave. There are times when all you want to do is curl up and cry and times when your smile hurts from being so fake and times when you feel like giving up. But then you close your eyes and suddenly everything has worked out and you’ve survived another couple of weeks of being independent and brave. Nothing feels as good as knowing that you’re stronger than you thought.
- Everything works itself out. At times on my gap year I’ve had no idea what was going on. I turned up at Karang Widya with no idea of what to expect. In Ubud, I still wasn’t sure where the office was on my first day. And somehow, just sitting back and letting what happens happen has paid off. Here I am in my room, writing a blog post while my new best friend shakes her head at my attempts to be funny. I’m teaching English and enjoying (almost) every moment.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you’re scared. Being alone is harder than anyone will admit. Trying new things and going to new places often makes me feel like throwing up or hiding underneath my blankets. People assume gap years are a way of avoiding studying and stressing yourself out at uni. Instead you find yourself thousands of miles away from friends and family, having to smile at strangers, trying not to cry when everything goes wrong, and feeling terrified. Uni or a Gap Year? The gap year is definitely the harder option.
- Take toilet paper everywhere you go. Unless you enjoy drip drying, you never know when you may need it –enough said. (Phun would also like me to mention that, in the last three months, she has learnt to use a squat toilet. I like to think I’m an old pro). (I’ll also use this moment to reiterate a matter dear to my heart – if you need a poo, you need a poo. This, unfortunately, does not take in to consideration the presence of a working toilet nearby).
- If all bums can fit, three is an acceptable number of people to squeeze on to one motorbike. But… WEAR HELMETS. Disclaimer: I advise you not to try this at home. And never, ever agree to be the one driving the bike – let the seasoned Indonesian who knows the roads deal with that stress alone.
- Language is not the only way to communicate. Religion (see my last post), music and laughter speak volumes. Toilet humour has never been so useful as in the last few months. And if you can’t think of a joke, MAKE FUN OF YOURSELF. Most people love to laugh at a foreigner – mispronunciations, embarrassing cultural misdeeds, disgusting sweat patches. Anything goes. This also includes those times when someone points out the spots on your face or questions whether you’ve showered. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Just remind yourself of those cultural differences – I know I have spots but why would you point them out??!
- Say YES! If one of the Indo boys you know offers to teach you to ride a motorbike, say yes. If the girl at work asks you to meet up later, say yes. If your co-worker asks you to go to a waterfall with them, say yes. (I should mention that this all depends on the situation – under no circumstances should you say yes to a situation that doesn’t feel safe). Nine times out of ten, saying yes will pay off. You’ll find yourself sitting in random Indonesian homes feeling awkward, babysitting kids while people play volleyball, laughing as you discover places you’d never have thought to visit.
Trust me, just say yes.
This ‘deep, emotional’ blog post was almost entirely inspired by Phun’s friend, Quincy. Quincy will be going to the same university as Phun next year and is also taking a gap year. All his blog posts are deep and introspective. Mine feel so shallow and boring in comparison. So this blog post aspires to capture the same inspiring essence that his carry. Or, you know, come across as entirely pretentious.
(A few more…).
- How to wash my hair in freezing cold water with just a bucket.
- How to wash plates in half a litre of once-clean-now-dirty drinking water.
- How to smile even though you want to cry.
- How to laugh after you’ve just thrown up and feel really sick.
- How to make the best drink – mix condensed milk with hot water.
- How to chop vegetables without a chopping board, straight on to my fingers.
- How to sleep with the lights on, in a bed full of ants.
- How to ride a manual motorbike – the gears and clutch and everything.
To be continued.