The Sparkle and Shine of Expat Life

There is something about expat life that sparkles.

It’s dusty, and may be a bit chipped around the edges, but there is something about life as an expat that catches the corner of my eye whenever I try to look away.

I think the hook is in the promise.  Nothing in life is guaranteed (except, as the saying goes, death and taxes), but I have found some sort of guarantee in my life here in Indonesia.

It’s not true love, it’s not that my ceiling wont leak.  It’s not that I will be safe, or that I will be always comfortable, or that I will find what I want to eat for breakfast.
I can’t quite put my finger on what it, exactly.

Maybe it’s that expats always have an excuse to travel.  When you are new to a place, people expect that you want to stretch to the limits of a weekend.  It’s normal to explore your own city, and try to experience a different style of living.

I love the spontaneity of being an expat. That my friends and I could fly to Bali or Singapore for a weekend on very little notice, and no one would blink at the suddenness of the plan.  In Michigan, even driving across the state and back is an expedition that is hard to cram into a weekend.

Perhaps it is the instant community of people who can empathize with what you are experiencing:  the culture shock, the confusion.  I remember the embarrassment of fumbling with the brightly coloured Rupiah bills, trying to figure out if I was paying someone ten cents, one dollar, or ten dollars, and having the other expats I was with wince sympathetically as they remembered their first few weeks here.  Within those transitions and minor trials are bonding experiences that glue communities together, and it’s a nice feeling.

I didn’t really expect to feel as if being an expat would be part of my identity, but retrospectively, I think that was ignorant of me — I have always become too attached to the places in which I live.  (I am a true Michigander, and living in Jakarta hasn’t washed that away (no matter how much it rains!))

Don’t get me wrong: being an expat isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, and that reality is only amplified by the fact that I am living in a country so far away that it would take me a minimum of 24 hours and 1500 USD just to give my mother a hug.  I can only communicate the most basic of needs in the national language, and I can’t drink the water.  The list goes on and on, but still the feeling remains:  I like being an expat.

(And I am not really sure what that means for my life.)


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