culture shock · daily life · food · friends

(Reverse) Homesickness

What do you know, it’s been more than eight months since I’ve been back in Jakarta. As I’m getting more and more used to life here, I’m also starting to miss my life in Davis.

Davis is my second home. It’s a city where I experienced independent adulthood for the first time. Well, I did live in Thailand for a bit, but it was more like a long-term tourist as everything was provided by the institution I interned for. In Davis, I had to learn how to take care of stuff I had never thought of before: rent, bills, laundry, car registration, insurance, budget management, healthcare, etc, etc. I did have quite a lot of friends, but in the end, I had to pretty much rely on myself to navigate my way around life away from my parents.

There are times when I just wanted to be home in Jakarta. During my second year of graduate school, I was hit by the homesickness of all homesickness, up to the point where I started hating everything about America. Why does everyone have to be so friendly? I just want to pay for my groceries, I don’t need your small talks. Why do I have to keep spelling my name over and over again whenever I make a phone call to the customer service? Why do I have to renew my driver’s license every year? Why do I have to tip for everything? Why is there no food cart conveniently available whenever I’m hungry but too lazy to cook? It was bad.

Luckily enough, I applied and got accepted as a program assistant for Fulbright English for Graduate Study program, a summer training course that was designed to help incoming Fulbright grantees assimilate to the American culture and academic environment prior to the beginning of their respective graduate programs. Talking about life in a place where everything was once so foreign actually helped me think about the good and the bad instead of just focusing on the bad. For once, I started building an appreciation for the opportunity to experience things I wasn’t familiar with.

Fast-forward to now, the table is turned and I’m currently suffering from reverse homesickness. I was on my Uber ride home one day and in all of the sudden Despacito by Luis Fonsi was playing on the radio. It’s really rare that you would hear reggaeton here. The beat and the Spanish lyrics immediately brought me back to memory of myself, sitting in my car in Davis, driving to the supermarket with this music blaring from a nearby car. My brain and my heart were triggered to recall how good my life was in Davis and for the past one week, I’ve been slightly questioning why I decided to change the status quo and once again stepped out of my comfort zone.

Here are some of the things I miss the most:

1. My social life

As a small-ish student town, a part of Davis population is composed of academia from various parts of the world. People come and go with the intention to find a group to hang out with, to truly enjoy the living experience in America. Almost each quarter you’re bound to see someone new. There are always people to talk to over beer, dinner or house parties.

Not being around my friends in Davis is probably the hardest thing to endure since we moved. I miss throwing elaborate dinner parties for all of my friends. I miss the ability to walk out my door and head off to the bars and restaurants just a few blocks away. I miss karaoke night, trivia, thirsty Thursday and the fact that it’s so easy to make friends.

Here, everything and everyone are so far apart. The fact that I spend most of my time working doesn’t help either. The fact that we still live with my parents are even more troubling. They do not understand the need to have a social life, or the need to be out of the house past dinner time. They also criminalize the consumption of booze. This means having friends over are definitely out of the question. Soon though, we’ll have our own place and I have high hopes that will change things a bit, despite that we’re going to be living in the boonies.

dinner parties

Typical dinner parties at our old apartment. Cooking for 30 people was challenging yet fun.

2. The many, many stuff we could do on the weekends

Davis is conveniently located close to all the major center or activities. Sacramento, which offers a variety of food options for a multitude of culture, is only 20-30 minute car ride away. Go up north and you’ll find Lake Tahoe, the mountains, national parks (even though I hate hiking), etc. Portland is drivable if you’re up for a road trip. Go south and you’ll find San Francisco within less than two hours. San Jose, which hosts the largest Vietnamese community in the US, is nearby.

There are various fairs and events almost every weekend. We randomly found a cat show and seized the opportunity to see proud maine coon owners parading their babies like there’s no tomorrow. Random trips to Denio’s for swap meet, cheap vegetables and fruits and the best lemonade stand in the area? Game on. Seeing Jay Pharaoh live at a stand-up comedy club? Demolition derby at the country fair? Checking out this girl who pretends to wrestle invisible Charlie Chaplin? Sure, why not?

demolition derby

Demolition derby! What could be more fun than watching rinky-dink trucks smashing into each other?

 maine coon

A Maine Coon at the judging table of this random cat show we found.

Our weekends here are filled with mall trips and that’s pretty much it. Yeah, the malls here are lots of fun, but how many weekends in a row can you to go Paperclip before it goes stale? We’re looking for new ideas to spend our weekends and right now the museums look quite promising.

3. How efficient things mostly are

Dude, it took me two weeks to settle a small issue at work. I had to talk to person A, who passed on the message to person B, who then told person A to go to person C, to be told that person C had no clue why things were the way they were, and then passed on to person D, who told me the instruction to take any action should come from person C and so on. I get it, we value the order of authority here, but why does it always have to be so complicated?

4. Beer and wine

Hello, IPA. It’s been a while since we saw each other. I miss your hoppy aroma and your hint of bitterness.

Hi there, Orange Blossom Blonde Ale. You’re so refreshing and light. You were always there for me during those warm summer nights.

Hiya, Campfire Stout and Macadamia Porter. Being away from you guys makes me appreciate dark beer more.

Here in Jakarta, what mostly available is mediocre tasting lager that I’ve grown accustomed to. Variety is almost non-existent. Moreover, alcoholic beverages are expensive here. Sure, if you go to the bar or restaurant, a glass of wine would cost as much as it would in the US. However, when you calculate it against how much we make, it’s steep. It’s very steep. $30 for a bottle of Yellow Tail? No thanks, I’m good.

5. Cheese

For us Indonesians, when you say cheese, it mostly means Kraft Cheddar Cheese. We do eat parmesan and mozzarella nowadays, but really, we need to step up our cheese game here. I’ve found a producer that makes gouda, but man, nothing beats Trader’s Joe’s smoky gouda. The stuff we have here is suspiciously gritty. What’s with that texture?


Behold, the legendary Kraft Cheddar Cheese that signifies all cheesy things you’ll find in Indonesia (not including my husband’s jokes)

Funnily enough, when I first came to the US, I used to have a hard time getting used to the cheese. Where’s my Kraft Cheddar Cheese? Now, I’m all over that brie with honey and apricot, that creamy gorgonzola, that awesome manchego, havarti, taleggio, asiago, goat cheese, everything. You can find that stuff in certain supermarkets here, but you’ll definitely think twice before you fork out that wad of cash.


I can has cheez?

6. Cured pork products

America, you made me lose my baconginity. Granted, my first bacon experience was at IHOP and I hated it, but after a couple of accidental encounter, I was starting to really dig this fine cured pork belly product, cooked to perfect crispiness. Prosciutto, I cry for your paper thin, translucent goodness. Salami, mortadella, soppressata, guanciale, capicola, pancetta, wai yu gotta be so expensive and all weird here?

cured meat

All the cured meat. Ignore the mooncake.

As I go on ranting about the stuff that I miss from the US, you might start to think that I hate it here. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I love about living in Jakarta. It’s just difficult to see them at the moment. For the time being, I’m moving forward and trying to pick out all the good stuff I’ve been experiencing here.

3 thoughts on “(Reverse) Homesickness

  1. I was in Indonesia for 3-week vacation recently and I was struck how difficult it was to re-“settle” into the way things were there again. I hate the fact that I have to be driven (no way I’m driving in Surabaya these days) around and couldn’t just take public transport, or bike, or walk (only crazy bules do the walking – apart from when we were in Jogjakarta). It makes me feel trapped, especially in those endless traffic jam when you’re wasting away in the cocoon of your car.

    Not to mention the noise, the amount of noise everywhere, be it people, machine, loud music played with crazy bemos at Labuan Bajo or just repeated advertisement jingles in many various malls. Once I got back here, I realised​ how quiet things are and how much I love to walk to the beach near my apartment. I guess I would be able to settle back if I needed to, but for now, the thought of moving back home is probably on the bottom of my to-do list in the next 40 years or so.

    That said, nothing beats the food. Oh my god. How I kill for Indonesian breakfast these days, or lunches, or dinners….


  2. “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in mire than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

    Liked by 1 person

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