Tag Archives: Humor

Abroad Blog of the Week: Lottie Nevin

If you haven’t already subscribed to this Abroad Blog of the Week, you’ll want to. I came across Lottie Nevin when I first started blogging about six months ago. I was hooked by Lottie’s blunt honesty but humorous take on the difficulties of being a Brit new to Jakarta. She is also a fabulous story-teller and frequently weaves previous life experiences into her present day predicaments. Lottie just celebrated her one-year blog birthday (huge congrats!) and her blog is a great source of funny advice for anyone considering a move to Indonesia. Want proof? Just keep reading for my interview with Lottie…I promise she’ll have you laughing by the end.

Looking back on this first year of living in Jakarta, what are you most proud of?

My greatest achievement thus far, is managing to avoid falling into any of the open sewers that are such an attractive feature of Jakarta. I’m proud of that but then I seem to remember a saying that ‘Pride comes before a fall’ so maybe I should think of something else?

I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t gone totally mad from living in Jakarta. With the best will in the world, I doubt very much that it features on anyone’s bucket list of destinations but it’s our home for the moment so I’ve had to step up quickly to the mark and embrace the good, the bad and the ugly side of living here which if I’m honest, is not always easy.

I’m also very proud and somewhat relieved of not getting run over trying to cross the notoriously busy Jakartan roads. Crossing any road here could be described as something of an extreme sport. It certainly helps to have a sense of humour and the patience of a saint, because you can bet your bottom dollar, that whatever you have planned for your day will not go smoothly. In case you were wondering, I have neither.

How do you handle the attention you get from being a blonde, British woman in Indonesia?

The blonde hair does get noticed, and that coupled with me being a good foot and half taller and at least 3 foot wider than most women here, makes me stick out like a sore thumb which sometimes I find difficult. We don’t live in an expat area of Jakarta so if I’m out and about walking, the sighting of another western women is a rare occurrence. In Bali it’s different because being a holiday destination there are plenty of blonde Australians, which means I blend seamlessly into the environment.

Have you picked up any new habits since you’ve lived abroad?

Ah, that’s an interesting question. Habits, yes, I’ve certainly picked up some new bad habits over the past year, wearing a dastah (Indonesian onesie) for example, which went down like a lead balloon with my husband. I’ve had to wean myself off wearing them as he gave me an ultimatum. Not enough exercise is another. Because of that, I am now almost spherical and resemble the apple motif on the front of my laptop. My best new habit is probably starting writing a blog. I’ve discovered so many great blogs in the past year, and since starting my own I’ve met up with other bloggers in the flesh so to speak and subsequently made some good friends. I also now write for an expat website, a glossy magazine in Jakarta, and best of all, I get emails from people who’ve stumbled across my blog on the internet and want advice on moving to Indonesia. I’m always delighted to hear from people and it’s a good feeling being able to offer advice, and help in any way that I can.

Do you think you’ll ever get used to Indonesian bathroom culture?

Never in a month of Sundays will I get used to Indonesian squat and drop type toilets. There’s something very off-putting about having to place ones feet on the ceramic paddles either side of it, and hover over a hole. After one too many Bintangs, it can also be a perilous balancing exercise. The sit down toilets aren’t a lot better because the seats are generally covered in dirty footmarks from the Indonesian ladies who don’t like sitting and prefer to scramble up onto the seat to squat. Not least the fact that toilet paper is rarer than hens teeth in these parts. Instead, there is an apparatus resembling something akin to a high-pressure hose that is supposed to be used for washing afterwards. I’ve never managed to use one without soaking the bathroom and myself from head to foot.

Which is your favorite post from your blog?

My favourite post? That’s quite difficult to answer because I’ve enjoyed writing all of them.  I know that there have been certain posts that have proved popular with people who follow me, but I think My Pelvic Floor and Our Move to the 12th Floor is definitely one of my favourites. I like it when I can weave things that have happened in my past into what I am writing about here in Indonesia.

What considerations should someone contemplate before moving abroad to Southeast Asia?

I think it very much depends on where you are going to be living in S.E Asia. Thailand is  different from Indonesia and so are Malaysia and especially Singapore. Indonesia is the largest modern Islamic state in the world. Culturally it is very different from the UK which is where I was brought up. It’s certainly important to do your homework before moving out here so my advice is check out expat websites, read expat blogs, and find out as much as you can about all the cultural differences, especially if you are moving from the west.

Something that I read prior to our move, and at the time made very little sense to me but which nonetheless stuck in my mind, was the line ‘when moving to Indonesia give up on the idea of ever having any control over anything. If you need/want to be in control, you will not last 5 minutes here’ or words to that effect. Having lived here for just over a year, those words now make perfect sense to me.

Abroad Blog of the Week: The Cantaloupe Tales

When I came upon The Cantaloupe Tales a few weeks ago, I was reading through study abroad posts on WordPress. It’s my favorite tag as I do love me a good ole study abroad blog – one that has pictures of the Eiffel Tour or the experience of a student eating her first Italian gelato. But what I enjoy the most is when I find ones that are unique, filled with character, and so funny that I almost wet my pants.  Well, Cantaloupe Tales is one of those blogs.  The blogger, Katie, is witty. She can tell a great story and has made me laugh to the point that Hubby has come in our office to see what is going on. If you’re having a bad day, read this post from Katie. I promise you’ll be tearing up from laughter by the end.  Katie’s humor doesn’t end there. I have had the wonderful privilege of emailing with her and she answered a few questions about her blog and experience in Morocco.  I hope you will enjoy her writing as much as I do.

Katie from the Cantaloupe Tales

Why did you name your blog The Cantaloupe Tales?

You know, I don’t really have a good reason, except that it was the first thing that popped into my head when I sat down to create it in January. Maybe I got confused between which snack I wanted to eat and what I wanted to name this new blog; I do that sort of thing when I’m hungry. It also sort of sounds like the Canterbury Tales, which makes me sound educated and clever. The first post is called “A Melancholy Tale,” (get it?) and it’s a very short, very dumb story full of puns about two star-crossed lovers who also happen to be melons. The last line is: “‘I love my melon lover,’ sobbed the melon, “but now we cantaloupe!”  I know, I know. I can’t believe I have readers either.

What surprised you most about Morocco?

Healthcare. Is. So. Cheap. (For US-ians, anyway). When I came down with intestinal parasites (avoid those), I dragged myself out of bed to a private practice Moroccan doctor, who made us wait forever but only cost 200 dirhams (approximately exactly $22.7110). Then I went to the pharmacy and got my meds. Long story short, you just walk in and tell them what’s wrong with you. For Moroccans, I know that this isn’t exactly chump change, but as someone whose paycheck (when employed) comes in dollars, it was a bit of a relief. Also: don’t eat unwashed salads. Parasites suck (ugh, literally. Ugh, get me off the Internet).

Also, when inside a Moroccan family’s house, everyone wears their pajamas all the time. One gets dressed to go out. Brilliant! It was fantastic. Bring your jammies.

Did you pick up any local habits/customs while living abroad?

I read this question to my mother, who laughingly replied, “Well, look at what you’re wearing!” She was right: I’m wearing a Moroccan gandora, which is a traditional garment that my host family gave me the day before I left Morocco. I also wear harem pants now. Other than my increasingly dubious wardrobe, though, it’s hard to say: when living in Morocco, I picked up plenty. I ate with my hands, mastered the squat toilet and bucket operation, and grew accustomed to haggling in the souk. Lots of small things come to mind, tiny and huge lifestyle changes that add up to making a new home as the months pass.

What have I brought back to the U.S., of all these customs and habits? I’m still not sure. People use forks and toilet paper, and it’d be crazy to try to haggle at Target. I like to think I’ve brought back something, though. A puffy Hello Kitty bathrobe? That little purple rug? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

From your experience, was it harder to go to Morocco or to come back home?

BOTH. I know that’s sort of a weenie answer, but let me explain. I struggled with adjusting to Morocco: I missed my friends, culture shock, the works. Yet adjust I did, and as my airplane departed Casablanca, the last thing I wanted to do was completely change my way of life—again. I love Morocco and its rich culture, history, politics, and mostly, its people. Slipping into all of my old U.S. habits was easier than forming new Morocco habits had been, but once home, I realized that nobody (except for a select few) knew or really cared about Morocco. That’s been weird.

So both were challenging in different ways. No matter which way the cookie crumbles, though, you’ll forget where your comfort zone was and replace it with some good, wholesome awkwardness. I’d do it all again, and not change a thing. Well, except for waiting so long to see a doctor about those parasites. Seriously.

What three pieces of advice would you give someone who was planning to live/study in Morocco?

1.     Travel as much as you can, Morocco has pretty great public transit. Go to Chefchaouen and Asilah! Climb Mount Toubkal! Run around on beaches! Play soccer with Moroccan kids!

2.     Don’t be too paranoid about people ripping you off in the souk. Get some ballpark prices from Moroccans for certain items, and haggle away! Don’t be shy! But honestly, you’ll end up paying a bit more for some things because you’re foreign anyway. When it’s a difference of 10 dirhams, what’s one more dollar to you? You’re boosting their economy. Smile. Make friends with the shopkeepers. Have a ball.

3.      Learn Darija and talk to people. All the time. Never stop talking to people! Ladies, just ignore the catcallers, but talk to people! That’s the point, right? Crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries. Seriously, learn Darija. It’s fun. Chat ‘em up! Good luck! Have fun!

4.     I know you said three, but I just thought of an important one. Bring hand sanitizer. There’s never soap, and when you’re using a bucket and water, you’ll want to wash your hands thoroughly. Oh, yeah, and eat lots of couscous. Go to a wedding. Beware of leben. Okay, I’m done. Thanks for reading!

Thanks for the interview, Katie!