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September 20, 2011 / freyajane

NOTE TO SELF: Lose the temper

Sorry about the blogging hiatus. Of course there’s been a lot to tell you…but as the diplomats among us say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all.”

I guess August was a hard month for me. Were I to have written something during August, you (who constitutes one half of my readership, unless you are my mum in which case you constitute the other half) would not have been treated to the musings of the optimistic delusional Freya who has lovingly populated this blog every other month. Instead, you would have been forced to endure the bitter rantings of one of my grumpy alter-egos – a trio that I have affectionately named Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy and Sour Sally.

Had I blogged during August, Sour Sally would have written 5000 words about how Ramadan (which took up the entire month) made my life almost unbearable. “My fried tofu cart man went on holidays! The 24/7 calls to prayer kept me up all night! All the bars were shut so I had to go dancing in a hooker bar…A HOOKER BAR!” she would whine.

Negative Nancy would definitely have bombarded you with some self-indulgent diatribe about the multitude of reasons why I should not have “tried something new” by dying my hair brown (“It was actually more of a ‘pond scum green’ than a brown” – Nancy)…and that would have provoked Debbie Downer to chime in with the mother of all rants focused on the scary yet amusing satirical comedy that is my “love” life (I can’t publish what Debs would actually say here – she is not very PC).

Thankfully, neither Debbie, Nancy nor Sally wrote a blog – the internationally celebrated diplomat pictured below did!

Freya in NE Thailand circa 1989

I’m the one in the pink, in case you were having trouble distinguishing me from the locals

Indeed, my illustrious career as a Southeast Asian “nomad” did kick off at a very young age.  Despite being quite small (in fact, I don’t think I have ever been that small since) when the above shot was taken some twenty-two years ago on a family holiday in Thailand, I think I was already developing characteristics of high diplomacy well beyond my six years.

I remember riding atop an elephant and pretending to look comfortable; I tried to act like I was interested in the process whereby you can boil silkworms to extract their silk, when really I was just super, super, super grossed out; I even vividly recall making an effort not to stare at the amputee who charged 10c at the door of the squat toilets at the Jade Buddha.  Back then, as you can clearly see from the above photo, I was refined, gracious and impeccably dressed.

Sadly, the toothless diplomat of 1989 grew up to be the pushy, assertive, straight-talking woman that I am today.  I am a nice lady, I promise! I love people! And things! It’s just that here, I am a part of the “bule” club and sometimes we struggle with the guiding principles of Southeast Asian manners;

  1. Smile through your rage – aggression earns you nothing but smiles of rage which will only enrage you further.
  2. Grin through your disappointment – if you cry, people will point and laugh at you.
  3. The more you offend someone (which, if you are a pushy bule, you always do) the less likely they are to tell you.

Ok, maybe that is a ridiculous over-generalisation. I’m actually not sure if the same rules apply throughout Asia as they do in Indonesia, but a cheeky google of the words “Western Vs Eastern Anger” would suggest that they do…

Anger - Western Vs Eastern styles

Needless to say, the “grin and bear it” concept continues to test my patience here in Indonesia (THAT’S BECAUSE SH*T IS ALWAYS GOING WRONG. ALWAYS. – Nancy) but of course I DO TRY to internalise my frustration as much as I can…

Unfortunately, last month I didn’t try very hard.

It’s hard to know the precise moment when (what will henceforth be known as) “The August of Anger” began for me, but I think it might have been around the time I was trying to buy a sweet faux ‘vintage cassette tape’ mobile phone cover at the market. It was pretty rad. I wanted it. Bad. But the lady in the shop was asking for $11.  I’m like “Whatevers lady, I’ll give you five.” and she’s like “ONE PRICE!”

I’m sorry, but $11 is more than I paid for my amazing Marilyn Monroe wig from Paddies Markets…

Marilyn wig of awesomeness

and this was a rectangle fashioned from toxic rubber, so Sour Sally was not going to take this lying down (unlike Marilyn who would take anything lying down – Debbie). A simple transaction turned quickly to a high-voltage altercation, when phone lady refused to bargain with me. Nothing new. Definitely nothing important, but it was the August of Anger so I was all like…


The August of Anger progressed at top speed when my Indonesian dentist told me I was going to need to fork out $3000 to pay for his work on my chompers. Despite the fact that this is about half the price of Australian dental care; despite the fact that my insurance will foot the bill anyhoo and despite the fact that it is unfathomably rude to object to a medical professional’s billing rates, Debbie came out of nowhere and spewed forth with some…


Shamefully, as the weeks passed, the rage did not.  When yet another creepy motorcyclist drove up onto the footpath in front of me and was getting all up in my grill nagging me to go for a ride, Nancy made him regret it.  Normally, I just ignore these skeezoids, but it was (after all) the August of Anger and I was out to make some enemies so I marched up to guy, pointed my finger in his face, and bellowed a swift, perfunctory…

fark off gif

Unsurprisingly, as the month drew to a close I was growing weary of living in this heightened state of crankiness.  My patience was wearing thin with the fact that my patience was wearing thin. However, on the last, fateful week of August, I decided to brave the 6pm traffic and take an ojek to meet some friends for dinner.

Thanks to the “design” of Jakarta’s road network which is based up on the assumption that we are all like Derek Zoolander and can only turn one way (in this case, left) my poor driver and I were forced to take the below route…

(I wish I were exaggerating)

map of the most illogical and typical route to take in Jakarta

Then the bike started backfiring. Then it started to rain (it never rains in August). Then Debbie, Sally and Nancy banded together and unleashed the fury…

psychopathic menal enraged madwoman

When we finally arrived at our destination one hour later, the driver and I were both quite relieved to be parting ways.  He laughed nervously and apologetically, as I took a deep breath, dismounted, and emptied the water out of my shoes.  Within two squelchy steps I managed to tread on an innocent, unassuming feral cat (It was dark. It looked like garbage – Sally).  The cat was like “WTF?”, the driver started apologising again and I was like…

tears of resignation

The whole evening–no, actually the whole MONTH–was hopelessly undignified and pathetic and I only had myself to blame.  I am not proud of this behavior or any of the other outbursts I inflicted upon Jakartans last month – but I also wouldn’t take them back. The August of Anger actually taught me why it’s important to keep my temper in check.

One of the reasons most Indonesians complain less than their Western friends may be, in part, due to that fact that they have bigger priorities than arriving to a meeting on time or eradicating the exploding feral cat population. If everyone here was as petty as I was during the August of Anger, then the country would self-destruct within seconds.

Yes, I am still happy living my delusional life as an exbrat. No, I am not coming home any time soon. Yes, I still have tantrums. No, I have not found anywhere that sells gluten free bread or cider but yes, I am ok with that…for today, at least.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t feel comfortable expressing anger, sadness, frustration–or my most common affliction, hunger rage–but a little bit of patience goes a long way here.

It needs to go a very, very long way if you need to make a right-hand turn.



Leave a Comment
  1. Cal / Sep 20 2011 10:23 am

    Can Nancy guest-post the next one please

  2. mum / Sep 20 2011 3:24 pm

    Half of your audience thinks you are wonderful! And I know about the hunger anger. oxo

  3. Al / Sep 20 2011 3:44 pm

    I’d like to hear a bit more from the un-pc debbie!!!

    • freyajane / Sep 20 2011 5:08 pm

      I’ll bet you would! I’ve save “The Best of Deb” for when we share a bots over Christmas, shall I?

  4. tasha may / Sep 20 2011 4:46 pm

    ohmygod I cannot stop laughing yet again…. damn hysterical!!!!!!!!!!

    • freyajane / Sep 20 2011 5:09 pm

      Thanks Tasha! Jakarta has lost another lovely resident in you 😦

  5. Nunny / Sep 21 2011 5:48 pm

    Oh Lordy, you’ve just assisted me to push through the night after a massive day/week/month/year of work to attempt my uni assignment. On one hand Im happy for you that you’ve left the month of anger behind, and yet it was so entertaining and comforting to know that others are taken over by their feral alter egos that I would be equally (and totally selfish in this) to continue to see Debbie, Sally and Nancy in your blogs. Though I’m sure it will not be the last we will hear of them.

    • freyajane / Sep 29 2011 9:01 am

      Shkell, there is so much rage yet to come. So…so…so much rage.

  6. Chinga / Sep 22 2011 8:52 am

    You’re a clever girl(s). Thanks for the journey (/detour)!

    • freyajane / Sep 29 2011 9:02 am

      Aw, thanks for helping me through this…

  7. Dawn Dash / Sep 28 2011 1:45 pm

    Are you sure Debbie’s not writing my blog? Her and I sound like twins separated at birth!

    • freyajane / Sep 29 2011 9:04 am

      I heart your blog DD but I also am alarmed at the parallels between your life and mine! It is a sad, absurd, ridiculous state of affairs for us single late-twenty-something modern women of Sydney (and Jakarta)…all five of us 🙂

  8. Alextacy / Sep 30 2011 2:41 pm

    dummy spit completely justified, the driver took you a stupid route. how dare these ignorant types purvey their services, assuming (ASSUMING!!!) that we, the paying passenger, would actually know where we are going and how to get there.

    My advice is to learn how to use the GPS on your smartphone, it reduces the likelihood that you might kill someone and thereby rot in a Jakartan jail, or have to leave the country & feel bad for a while.

    • freyajane / Sep 30 2011 5:30 pm

      Great advice Alexis,

      Alas, no amount of crackberrying is going to prevent me from the inevitable moment when I actually end up smacking down one of the MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HERE who don’t watch where they’re going and walk into me…usually at Grand Indonesia…usually in RanchMarket…

      (that was Nancy btw)

  9. J. / Oct 4 2011 6:50 am

    I hope the August of Anger gets replaced by a September of Something better 🙂

    I’ve added you to my extended blog roll. Let me know if that’s not okay with you.

    • freyajane / Oct 4 2011 7:22 am

      Okay? That is bloody more than okay! This is the October of Optimism so everything is just so amazingly great and fabulous and exciting, y’see.

      Thanks again for the links and tweets 🙂

  10. annakate82 / Oct 4 2011 9:56 am

    Freya, Sally, Debbie and Nancy, you are my favourite quotable quartet. But Freyajane, maybe don’t bring those three to Laos…


    p.s. which one of you is responsible for the vids? Nice touch.

    • freyajane / Oct 4 2011 12:36 pm

      Stemps, our trip to Laos is a holiday from Indo, so I anticipate you’ll be seeing my fresh outta Juvi/ spring break/schoolies/locked up abroad alter-ego. Name TBD. Brace yourself.

  11. Ashlee / Nov 24 2011 5:09 pm

    I totally relate to this! Sometimes in Jak I would just have a few weeks where everything would drive me nuts… usually then I would get out of town for a few days and leave my crazy angry lady behind at some beach shack. Unfortunately she would always find a way back to me…

    I’m moving to Dili in two months and I’m sort of wondering whether this will happen again, or whether the toxic pollution and traffic in Jakarta was actually the root cause, rather than all the other challenges…


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