One of the Girls
It’s quiet outside, a little too quiet. There are meant to be 17 other people here but I haven’t seen any signs of life. Tired, culture-shocked, and utterly starving, I get my first ever meal in Canggu delivered to my villa’s door: a veggie burger with chips, an order akin to that of a seven-year-old boy ordering fish fingers at a nice Italian restaurant. My meal comes and goes and I soon fall asleep. But when I wake up, I hear them.
Seventeen women poolside chatting and laughing. I make my way down and awkwardly introduce myself.
Don’t look at the boobs, don’t look at the boobs… Oh, I’m wearing sunglasses, do they think I’m looking at their boobs? is what runs through my mind the entire time.
They all introduce themselves, I immediately forget all their names, they tell me where they are from and I immediately forget that too. Nice one, Dory.
Spending an entire month in Bali with a group of women was only going to go one of three ways for me.
- I become the new Hugh Hefner and I transform a villa into my Play Boy mansion and throw lavish parties for Indonesian superstars (highly unlikely).
- I reach peak Michael Cera levels of awkwardness and everyone feels sorry for me and I get invited to outings from pity (very unlikely, but bound to make some sort of awkward statement regardless).
- I get ‘girl-ed out’, retreat to my room and watch movies starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in an attempt to have some bro time (somewhat likely, reasonably sad, slightly sexually confusing).
But the pessimistic mind is often proven wrong, and I certainly was.
The reason why 18 almost-complete strangers were bought together was because of a course, one that allowed us to study both journalism and the Indonesian language with Global Hobo. So naturally, it felt like going back to school in a lot of ways, except it was an all-girls school and I was the only boy, which really just sounds like the premise for some teen comedy from 2006.
As I navigated my way from lunch table to lunch table (restaurant to restaurant), and from bus seat, to bus seat (taxis) I found that I no longer obtained my short term memory loss. I knew all their names and a little something about each of them.
Still socially lost within my first week, I would often sit at the large table at the villa with everyone. During this time, I heard my fair share of what I like to call ‘girl catchphrases’, which to the male ear is fine to hear three or so times but after that, it can be somewhat headache-inducing.
As different girls arrived I would often hear “Oh my god, where did you get that________?”, “Wow absolutely love that for you!”, “That is literally so me” *30-minute discussion about vaginal waxing or where the best place is to do yoga*.
With the second week came a divide: some groups had formed and it soon became apparent which people liked being with certain other people. Fortunately, I wasn’t cast aside or forgotten; as Alan from the Hangover would say “I found my wolfpack”. But no group of friends is without jokes at one’s expense, and as I was also for once in my life a minority, everything soon became what I’d like to call, the Comedy Central Roast of Isaac Freeman.
Despite there being several vegans and vegetarians on this trip, I made friends with the ones who weren’t, so I was relentlessly bullied for my way of eating. Typical insults ranged from the following:
“Dirty soy boy.”
“I bet you have a lot of oestrogen from all the tofu you eat!”
“Wanna grab a steak tonight soy boy? You can eat the lettuce on the side.”
Ah, the joys of playground teasing. That’s not to say that I didn’t dish out my fair share of insults at them.
I teased them relentlessly over the Instagram feeds of guys they got with (captions including “live every day like it’s your last” and other quotes you’d find on a middle-aged white woman’s lounge room wall). When they had big nights and missed class, I would tell our Indonesian teacher that they have drinking issues, frequently steal things and also that one of them had recently become pregnant and was going to be settling down in Kuta for the remainder of her life. He took it quite well.
With all the jokes and teasing aside, my month abroad was certainly a lot different than I had expected. Would it have been great to have been the new Hugh Hefner? Sure, but come on I don’t think I could muster up half as much game to save my life. I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t an awkward burden of pity nor did I retreat to my room the entire time and stare at the Samoan god among men.
Instead, I made some long-lasting friends, shared some unique experiences, and became…well, one of the girls.
Pics by Alice Sime and Celine Dam
The author of this piece, Isaac, did a writing workshop in Bali, where he lived amongst the rice paddies and learned the ropes of freelance journalism. If this sounds like your kinda thing, applications for our next round of workshops are open now!