Suddenly, I’m out on the town every night of the week. Well, it only lasted for 4 consecutive days. But that’s not the point. The point is that I, the travelling homebody, happily socialised more in one week than I usually do in an entire month.
The week started with me going to that local volunteer’s house to visit with the kids. That was an afternoon visit so technically, I wasn’t out on the town at night, but I was out. OK, moving on.
The Sunday a week before that, I was hanging out by The Jamaican’s pool when I heard that there was going to be a UN event launching an exhibit of work by several Indonesian artists on the Monday evening a week later. Seeing as how I like a good art exhibit, I enquired if anyone knew how long the exhibit would be around and The Jamaican told me that he was actually invited so I should just go with him. Gate crash a UN event? Ahhhm…yes, please!
So on Sunday a week later, I visited the volunteer’s house then on Monday evening I cuted (yes, I’m Jamaican so I can turn “cute” into a verb) up myself a little and jumped into a cab. I met The Jamaican at his house and we cabbed it together to the nearby National Museum of Indonesia for the event. If you can believe it, all 4 of us Jamaicans (2 women, 2 men) known to be living in Jakarta were at the event. While we stood around listening to boring speeches, the other Jamaican guy invited me to go with him to functions over the next 2 nights. High-brow events that required dressing up? Ahhhm…yes, please!
Once the boring speeches were done, I found the event quite fun. Even though the art didn’t speak to me at all and the food was a bit dry, I had a glass of mediocre but drinkable red wine and The Jamaican made me laugh (out loud!) repeatedly. Oh, and business cards galore were exchanged. I got the ambassador of Venezuela’s business card. Who knows, maybe it will come in handy some time.
On Tuesday evening, I cuted up myself again and headed out, but this time I got a little bit more dressed up. I was going to a swank event at a swank hotel, put on by the Austrian ambassador in observance of Austria Day. The other Jamaican guy and I had arranged that I would meet him in the hotel lobby; he offered to pick me up but with the awful traffic and me living in the opposite direction, that didn’t make sense. I arrived about an hour before the event was to begin. Given the always-heavy Jakarta traffic and the fact that it was rush hour, I had given myself plenty of time (too much, apparently) to get there. But I didn’t mind being early because it gave me a chance to people-watch, which I usually thoroughly enjoy.
As I sat in the lobby watching people arrive for the event and enjoying the visual display of really nice clothes, a privilege I don’t get in my fashion-devoid daily life, I started feeling self-conscious about my outfit. I was wearing that nice white top I had bought for my meet-and-greet with the Jamaican ambassador a few weeks before, paired with a pair of loose black cotton pants from H&M, purchased in Penang months ago, with aqua sandals and my usual simple Pandora and Uru arm candy. It was the pants and shoes that made me feel less than my best. When I had walked into the hotel, before everyone else started arriving, I had felt perfectly fine. But as more and more people showed up looking elegant and pulled together, I began to feel gauche in my cotton pants and simple sandals.
I messaged A. I knew she would understand exactly how I was feeling, having lived through the same fashion dead-zone that I’ve been in since I got to Indonesia. She rightly reminded me that my daily life was totally different from these people’s daily lives and that if they were judging me based on my clothes, that was their problem, not mine. I took a deep breath and recognised what was happening – I was allowing concern about what people might think of my clothes to affect my confidence. Even though I knew that I wasn’t at my best, that was totally unacceptable. So I straightened my back, held my head high, walked into the event with the other Jamaican guy, reminding myself that the only opinion that matters to me is God’s.
For the next couple of hours, as I accepted more business cards, I forgot about my earlier discomfort and had interesting conversations with people from the US, Norway, Italy, Australia and Nigeria (my favourite – that guy was a hoot! A misguided one, but a hoot nonetheless). We talked books, politics, gender issues and so much more. Besides having conversations with English-speakers who understood what I was saying, my favourite part of the evening was talking to people who were taller than me, seeing as I’m usually the tallest person wherever I go in Indonesia (I’m 5 feet 6.5 inches – I didn’t say I was tall, I said I’m the tallest person I know here).
Three consecutive nights out, one more to go. Next up was a function at the police chief’s house, again with the other Jamaican guy. When we were parting ways on Tuesday night, we had agreed that I would meet him in the lobby of his office building on Wednesday evening but we hadn’t agreed on a time. As Wednesday wore on and he didn’t commit to a meeting time, I toyed with the idea of not going. In my new, non-people pleasing life, I don’t allow people to keep me hanging. But I wanted to dress up and spend the evening in a nice atmosphere having more great conversations, so I did my own time calculations and cuted up myself once more, ready to go. A few minutes before I planned to leave, he messaged me to cancel the evening, as he had an urgent work issue to handle.
Yup. Stood. Up! But you know what? I said no problem, wished him luck with his work issue, grabbed my purse and left the centre anyway. I decided to go to Grand Indonesia – a huge, fancy mall in Central Jakarta – and treat myself to dinner at a restaurant there, then window shop for a few items I need for JEXIT. So that’s how I spent my evening. Was I annoyed at being stood up? Not at all, and my decision to go out anyway was instantaneous. As I saw it, I received information from the other Jamaican guy about his lack of respect for my time, seeing as I’m pretty sure he knew hours before that he would have to cancel. But despite the absence of delightful conversation, I still had a nice evening, so I had no complaints.
So, that was my brief social butterfly phase. It was fun it while it lasted.