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The Smart Balance Between Stressful Life & Release

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Living in this decrepit metropolitan city can be really depressing. So, what’s new right? Face it, it’s hard to follow grandma’s advice to always think positively and always make sure that I’m surrounded by positive energy in this place.

How could I? I wake up every morning with my throat and nose full of weird stuff I inhaled from the supposedly fresh flow of oxygen from the air conditioner in my bedroom I set it at maximum strength every night or else I would spend the night covered in a layer of unhealthy gooey sweat. Don’t you dare to suggest that I open the window and breathe in the fresh air while I am sleeping! I might end up looking slightly blue when I wake up in the morning, if I wake up that is.

Then I climb in the bathtub to soak my body in the yellowish water seeping from the half-blocked shower head. It serves me well; hey what kind of Indonesian girl does not want to have nice pale skin (yellowish skin to be precise, or ‘kuning langsat’ skin as advertised by hundreds of whitening cosmetic companies) instead of the beautiful brownish tan I naturally have? It doesn’t really matter that the yellow colour actually originates from a questionable mix of rust and mineral deposits.

After this rejuvenating regime, piles of works usually greet me, which would be okay if there was actually real work to be done– which means that I’m actually making a bit of money instead of wasting the cheerful morning like I do most of the bloody time.

The good old socialising methods, where people actually meet and talk face to face, sound like a crime today when emails, video calls and SMS serve the same function. And you can avoid the hassle of dehydrated teeth due to the act of plastering a friendly, though usually false, smile on my face, the traffic jammed trips and God forbid - physical touches and friendly gestures! They are so last century.

Work, no healthy socialising, shitty air and water quality, traffic jams – I don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that the MC2 is a highly stressful lifestyle. I could end up looking scarier than a stuffed Keith Richard if I do not do anything about it. Release me, my precious. What do I do? What should you do to release the stress? And don’t give me that snobbish spiel saying ‘Oh, I’m fine here, life is beautiful, I’m enjoying it, care for a cup of tea dear?’ Well, stuff the tea my dear, because I’m not buying it.

When I think about it, there are handfuls of stress releasing activities in this city. There are the nearby beaches and golf courses, cinemas, hundreds of interesting hobbies to take up, and did I mention the beaches already? The beaches are wonderful. Ancol, north of Jakarta for example, is a breath of fresh air with its finicky dress code found nowhere else in the world. The beach’s visitors are urged to wear long blue jeans, T-shirts, and black leather jackets. Don’t try to sunbathe there, wearing your latest D&G bikini if you don’t want to be gawked at by drooling males, snotty kids, mutant seagulls and God knows what else.

The stretch of Anyer and its little beach minions to the west of Jakarta are also quite amusing. You can’t really snorkel there, because underwater visibility is less than five meters and there’s nothing to see except the long waste pipe from the nearby industrial complex.

For the good-hearted humble people, charity is often the chosen stress releasing activity. Amateurs usually start their noble acts by giving cash to the police officers when they’re pulled over on the street for not being able to read the traffic regulations written in a tiny font on the street signs while not speeding with their cars (who can speed on Jakarta streets anyway?). Taking young ‘jockeys’ for a three-in-one ride and giving them five thousand rupiah per trip can be also classified as an act of charity, for it improves the welfare of street children in Jakarta. And for the aged, depressed whoosh – well, they can always play golf to relief the burdens of their lives.

For my personal stress relief I chose to take up tending a marine aquarium as a hobby. Ages ago, my biology teacher told me: ‘If you can’t watch marine animals in their original habitat, you can always set up your own marine habitat in an aquarium in your home!’ So I did just that.

My marine aquarium has got about a dozen fish that look a bit out of place living in a glass box adorned with colourful live corals. Now I can happily say that I can maintain my sanity against the daily stresses of life, plus give job opportunities to those people who earn a bit of money from chipping away at the precious coral reef. Hey, they spend their days fighting for their dear lives against the wild tropical current while probably poisoning themselves with cyanide as they try to tranquilize fish at the bottom of the ocean.

It’s the balance between the stress and the release that you need folks. After all, to be able to live and earn money in this colourful city – one pays one’s dues.

First published in the Jakarta Post, on Sunday, April 11th

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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