Summer, the time of the year where the biggest event in the expat community takes place: the Expat Exodus. Most everybody takes advantage of the school holidays to repatriate at least for a few weeks and enjoy quality family time, real barbecue grilled burgers, fresh (vs. frozen) berries, good root beer, and very possibly some major shopping. Family gatherings that have been in the making for months are finally taking place and the kids get to see their cousins and fight over the Ipad instead of the tricycles like they did in the olden days. The familiar scents and flavors of home slowly start to fill the bellies, hearts and souls of the merry visitors going back to their original abode.
Alas, we are stuck home. We are stuck home but the routines of our daily lives that make our home a home seem to have evaporated as some of our friends have left for the summer or permanently, schools are off for the holidays and the expat associations and their activities seem to have come to a halt. The streets seem deserted (well, not really, we are still in Jakarta), the malls are full of locals and the occasional expat makes an appearance. Most of the expats still in Jakarta are either single or temporarily off-family-duty as moms, babies, kids, tweens and teens have evacuated the Big Durian for the summer.
We decided to wait to take our annual vacation until the latter part of the summer and with that miss out on the many activities going on as the school-year reignites. This decision was not taken lightly and it just worked out the best for us and our circumstances. However, I did not ever consider that the expat exodus was going to be so evident and tangible. When we were in Bangkok we didn’t even consider leaving for the summer as life seemed to continue its usual course and since Evan was so young we didn’t really feel a big change in our routine.
This time it’s different. Evan’s preschool is out and a lot of our friends are gone. This is the first time I have felt a big difference in our routines although the boys are still very young. I can’t imagine what it will be like when they actually start school. On the upside some really good friends are still here and the wait for that day in late July to arrive seems more bearable.
In an attempt to “survive” the exodus here are some tips to make the time spent home and enjoyable one and make the best out of this cruel cruel summer (yes, I know, I just had to write it down since it’s been in my mind all week).
Surviving the Expat Exodus
1. Play Tourist.
Visit the places you’ve been meaning to visit. They might be less crowded on the weekdays. Take notes of the places you like the most so you can be prepared when friends or family come visit. Go back to the places you visited when you first got here. You might see it with new eyes and appreciate little subtleties you never noticed before.
2. Meet old friends.
With school being out organize outings with friends you can’t usually meet during the school year due to schedule constraints. Catch-up and enjoy some leisure time with your good friends.
3. Meet new friends.
Summer is usually transition time and a lot of people leave the country, however, a lot of people also move in. This is a great opportunity to put your “local expertise” to use, give some tips to the newcomers and make some new friends .
4. Build-a-Something (Get your projects on!)
Engage your kids in activities you can’t usually do during the school year. I’m not talking only summer camp, maybe there is an art project you’ve been wanting to work on, or a photo shoot at a park you’ve been meaning to do since your now 3-year-old was 6 months old. Pick a theme for each week and have fun. Bake, plant a tree, put a puzzle together or build that 3,000-piece Lego toy that’s been stuck in your closet since Christmas.
5. Adopt a Pet
If your living space allows it, adopt a pet. Many of your friends will be so thankful that a loving family is taking care of their beloved fish, dog, cat , rabbit or tarantula while they are gone. Teach your kids to care for something other than their beloved favorite toys and consider it as a test-drive in the road to pethood.
6. Go to NeverLand
Right in your living room, or playroom! Have an adventure at home. Make a pretend beach, balls, sand activities and all. Build a pirate ship out of sheets or use that tent you bought for going camping.
7. Plan your Future Travel
Rejoice as the prices for your future travel drop as the day pass by. With a lighter schedule comes more time to day-dream and plan the sites, restaurants and stores you want to hit when you finally go on a trip.
I know, it’s unbelievable- your ICal doesn’t have anything scheduled for this week. It’s a miracle! Take advantage of this time to relax and enjoy spending some quality family time together. Get a massage, get that pedicure you’ve been meaning to get for the past 6 months and enjoy the temporary stillness of the vacations.
9. If Relaxing is too Stressful, Plan for the School Year Ahead
If you are like me, you might get restless after a few days “relaxing”. So, if it makes you feel better, start working out the activities for the next few months. Consider what you want to do for Christmas or for the next birthday.
Have you ever been “stuck” home during the expat exodus?
How did you survive it?