I guess I am what you could call an expat now. The locals would technically call me a Bule, effectively a person of European descent. I haven’t worked out yet if it has negative connotations attached to it yet. Its been 31 days living here on Batam, a small island in Indonesia just 20km south of Singapore. I’m here working for Infinite Frameworks Studios the animation division of a much larger Singaporean based company.
The island has been actively developed for around 20 years now, and feels rather undeveloped & in the throws of mass construction. That said it is home to over 1 million people, 3.5% of Indonesia’s total 280 million people. Mostly an industrial island with ship building, coal & oil industries it often gives me flash backs to parts of India. It certainly isn’t a ‘pretty’ island, it has relative levels of poverty and wealthy all at the same time. The north eastern corner of the island is the resort & golfing side of the island which is both where I live and where the studio is based, just minutes from the Nongsapura Ferry Terminal (our access point to Singapore & the world). I live in a beach resort villa & golf buggy to and from work everyday. Its not a bad life at all, but its not perfect either I guess… but what is?
I have not been learning as much Bahasa as I would like, but pushing to learn more each day. The studio conducts most business in English although often quick discussions & problems are resolved in Bahasa which leaves me a little confused, but we are still producing some great work. A large portion of the staff live in a residence a few kilometers away from the studio and so the company offers 3 meals a day, I have lunch & dinner at the studio which varies from an incredibly delicious stingray (which best described tastes like a meat steak from spur) to the more odd deep fried catfish. It basically means I am only having fend for myself for breakfasts and weekend meals.
The sun is up rather early, and I am never one to sleep once the sun comes up, so find myself down at the beach or the pool first thing in the morning. I rather enjoy the morning walk/swim and the amount of exercise I am getting now is far more than I whilst living in Cape Town. Its felt a lot like a ‘Jason Bourne’ style life, juggling multiple currencies as Singapore Dollars are often used along with the Indonesian Rupiah… as I am writing this 100,000IDR is roughly R100 or 10SGD, so for now I simply drop 3 zero’s and assume that is the Rand value. I am not sure if it is an Indonesia wide ‘thing’ but I have been able to open a SGD denominated bank account which can be used in Singapore. I suspect it could be due to the fact that the island is part of a free trade exchange with Singapore and Malaysia.
I have spent 3 of the past 5 weekends in Singapore, I have whats known as an EIS-I Card which lets you insert the card, scan your thumb and just like that you have checked out of a country, no passport or stamps required… its nearly as easy as moving within the EU. Singapore really is a fantastic city, even though its prices are rather steep and its one of the top 10 most densely populated countries in the world. It has so many events, such great public transport and shopping that will make a man bankrupt… I am talking about Funan a multistory digital shopping mall. It makes the photographer in me giggle & my wallet shrivel up like a prune.
There is a very friendly group of expats here on the island, some of which have lived here for nearly 20 years… they are full of stories from lives lived in Hong Kong and Singapore to simply escaping European weather. I love being plugged into a group of people who are internationally minded, they do not have their minds limited by insular thinking or ‘one country’ thinking. Its thinking like, ‘lets pop over to Hong Kong for the weekend… I have some banking to do’, that makes me realise that there is this whole other world out there, and I want to be a part of it. Its made the past 4 weeks rather educational, entertaining, and made me realise that I am already 1/6 of my way through my contract here.