Things I Will Miss About Indonesia:
1. Javanese dance and the traditional arts. I used to be so excited by the thought of being able to come back and show everyone what I've learned, but now I've realized that no one back home will understand it like I do. Things are never as fun when you're the only one. I remember back to the time that I first arrived at school and saw a few routines- they looked so foreign and odd, certainly interesting, but a little overwhelming, too. Now that I know the correct forms, names, and a few meanings I can't help but really enjoy watching Javanese dance- something that I won't be able to share with most people back home. I went to see the Ramayana play at Prambanan Temple last week (this is a long, confusing mythological Indonesian story that is told completely through traditional dance) and I absolutely loved it because I could pick out different ragams ("That's ulap-ulap, that's kengser..") and I got to see a lot of stuff that I learned myself at SMKI. (There were several ragams at the end of my kelas I gagah routine that looked sort of funny and I didn't particularly enjoy because the body positions and head moevements were way different from typical gagah style- but it turns out that's how the monkeys in Ramayana are performed :) ) There also isn't strong traditional culture in the States like in Indonesia. That I'll miss, too: the special holidays and celebrations, languages, finding out the reasons behind certain customs or habits; I am always learning new things here.
2. Hearing the call to prayer. I will miss waking up in the middle of the night and hearing Arabic lyrics floating through my window, and knowing it's around 4:30 am and I still have 45 minutes before I should shower. Each masjid here has loudspeakers mounted next to the building or on the roof, and five times a day they blast, quite literally, a call to prayer. It's all in Arabic, but the lyrics are close to 'There is no God other than Allah', 'Allah is the most powerful/the most great', 'Come everyone and praise Allah', and other short phrases. During prayer times most radio channels play the call, and local TV channels stop their programs to broadcast the call along with translations in Indonesian. Some masjids have live 'callers', but recordings are used also. I can't tell if all the calls say the same thing, or if each masjid uses the same call five times a day because I don't know Arabic and it's difficult to sort out the different sounds and words. I do think that the calls are different on Fridays- at least it sounds that way to me.
3. Spicy food. Yeah, there's spicy food back home but not spicy by Indonesian standards, and not as easy to find. Here, at nearly every restaurant there's a cup of sambal (real chilli sauce- not the bottled kind) at each table. And I feel like I've finally come into my prime of spice tolerance- I can add two big spoonfulls of sambal to my meal and not bat an eyelash. Nowadays I regularly use more sambal than members of my host family. Sigh. I'll miss that burn on my lips.
4. Eating with my hands. The best feeling is being able to pick up rice without making a mess, and also without everyone staring. At first everyone at school would stop and watch me eat- because I was obviously having difficulties and feeling awkward (also because I would sometimes use my left hand- dumb), tapi sekarang sudah terbiasa. It feels normal, and makes meal times more entertaining, enjoyable. Also, there are less dishes to do afterward.
5. Cheap prices. Generally I am very good at keeping my wallet glued shut, but lately I've been on a small shopping spree since I soon won't be able to find clothes for ten dollars at regular price. It'll probably be hardest to go out to eat back in the States- here a normal meal is 6.000 to 12.000 rupiah, including a drink, and that's about $0.66 to $1.33 US. I can't imagine paying $20 US for a plate of food. I've also gotten much better, and more comfortable, with haggling. On my last trip to Malioboro I wanted to buy sate telur puyuh (quail egg sate) from a street vendor. She told me a price double of what it typically is, and when I told her this ("Biasanya cuma seribu, mbak...") she looked a bit put off, but gave me my price anyways. Trying to gain an extra 11 cents off the foreign girl? Not today! I also helped another inbound haggle for a bag that I paid about 2/3 more for several months ago. That's a bit disappointing, because I didn't know the right price back then. But you live and you learn. Why are there not traditional markets in Minnesota? I'll miss that kind of shopping.
6. Drinking out of plastic bags. Almost every day for the last three weeks after school I would buy jus buah segar (fresh fruit juice) from a small stand across the street. Usually either manggo, sirsak, or tape (fermented cassava) and I'd drink it out of a plastic bag with a straw. It's cheaper, makes less garbage, and gives you something to have in your hands while you're bored waiting to be picked up. I think I especially like this because it seemed So Weird when I first got here. I had heard about people in Asia eating with their hands, but not drinking out of plastic bags.
7. Tropical fruits. Sirsak, manggo, sawo, kesemek, pisang, buah naga, belimbing, manggis, markisa, kelapa, duku, duren, pepino, melon, nanas, papaya, jambu, salak, pir singa, jeruk, tape, apulkat, asam, sirikaya... *Sniff* *Tear*
Things I am Looking Forward to in Minnesota:
1. Knowing all the rules. This has been the biggest challenge for me this year- learning the different customs within the Indonesian family, and the differences with Chinese and Javanese family customs. It seems like there are an endless amount of rules: who it is appropriate to ask for things or talk to about problems, and when; where you should sit in the car or at the dinner table (this changes with different situations, too); what is expected when guests arrive, what is the appropriate way to sit at home (this applies to girls only) and in public, and so on. So many. I'm looking forward to not having to feel nervous if I'm doing something incorrectly.
2. Toilet paper.
3. Family and Friends that I Haven't Seen in Awhile (A Long While).
I'm sure there are many more things that I'll be adding to both of these lists after I switch back to my home culture and start relearning the 'normal' things- it's difficult to think of everything at one time. Small miss/don't miss-es will reveal themselves throughout the next few months of reverse culture shock. It's odd to think about how far away I've been for the last year- geographically and culturally. After remembering how difficult it's been to adjust here, it makes me a little nervous to come home. If this already feels normal, then will Minnesota feel more foreign than like home? I don't think so, I hope not, but this is a lingering thought..
I. Am. So. Sorry. But I promise this will be quick- I just need to type up one last food update. I've managed to meet a few good meals and snacks in my last few days here in Indonesia.
|Cobra burger! And only 8.000 rp- around 86 cents.|
|Jangkrik (Cricket). Surpirsingly soft and sweetish? Compared to belalang, anyways.|
|Belalang (Grasshopper). They don't taste like much; a little crunchy and salty. Just intimidating to look at.|
... And one last update on what I've been doing and seeing lately.
So this is it. The end. I can't say I'm not excited to be in Minnesota again- meet my family at the airport, eat oatmeal for breakfast again, not to mention wear summer dresses when it's hot- but there is certainly a little bit of Indonesia that will stay with me. The depth of culture and customs, focus on preservation of tradition, passion in religion, and respect for elders that I've found here have captured a piece of my heart. Ada bagian diriku yang tetap orang jawa. A part of me will always be Javanese.
I've packed my bags and said my goodbyes: I guess that means I'm ready to go home. I won't leave anything behind except host family gifts and some old clothes; the skills, experiences, and good memories I think I'll take with me. The hardships and challenges from the past ten months I'll stuff in my back pocket, use them on bad days to help me keep things in perspective. I don't think I'll encounter anything in my near future that's as hard as leaving family and friends and flying across the world, or the frustrations of trying to adjust and assimilate to an unfamiliar culture. I also don't think I'll find anything as rewarding as knowing I survived through it all, and even made some other accomplishments of my own.
In true Indonesian fashion, I'd like to thank everyone that has supported and followed me through these past ten months. I apologize for shortcomings in my blog, long gaps between posts, and the limited amount of information I've offered. There's so much in Indonesia- I couldn't hope to give a satisfying snapshot of the Spice Islands with just ten months. And so, no longer a Javanese dancer but just a college kid from Minnesota, I'll sign off for the last time and take my flight home. Come on over to Northfield sometime and I'll cook rendang and fix you a glass of jahe wangi.
Terima Kasih dan Berkah Dalem. Thank you and Bless you all.