|These pictures aren't relevant, but I am going to put a few of them in here anyways. They are from the beautiful waterfall near my house.|
Right now is around the time last year that I found out I would be going to Indonesia. Seeing all of the excitement from future YES Abroad-ers on facebook (why, yes, I did shamelessly add myself into the 2014-2015 group to stalk the future Indonesia kids) induced a sort of strange flashback to where I was a year ago. It was crazy to think of just how much my views, fears, goals, hopes, and spirituality have changed. Especially in terms of exchange. I thought that exchange was something that worked simply – a major event or two occurred in my daily life, I would wait until I had enough time, and then I would blog about it and share my experiences with those at home. Unfortunately for my brain which likes to think it is in control and has everything all figured out and tied up with a neat bow, exchange is nothing like that. Most of my experiences here are intertwined with other things that have affected me emotionally or mentally and are often too complicated or sometimes personal for me to comprehend and then share with others. I often find myself sitting with ample free time and an open diary but nothing to write. Not because nothing has happened, but, because so much has happened. The amount of time to process and let things sink in has been significantly longer than I anticipated, and I feel like I am nowhere near fathoming what sort of amazing effect this journey will have on my life. It might not be until I am at home and finally over the jet lag and excitement that I will really begin to understand the full effects of this year. That being said, blogging about significant events here has proven more difficult than I initially thought. But, like I said, I am not sorry. The core reason that I am here is as an exchange student -not a blogger or online-exchange-promoter constantly posting pictures and what not on Facebook –but, a student. And, the job of a student is to learn. I have been devoting most of my time to learning from every experience and person that I come across here. Honestly, if I spent all of my time focusing on sharing every amazing encounter as it happened, it would detract from my exchange. If I were to constantly be online promoting myself, it would get to the point where I would be doing things for the sole purpose of showing people at home how cool Indonesia is, and I would lose the purpose of this program and my exchange. It’s all about balance.
So, although some of my close friends and family back at home may feel like they have no idea what is going on in my daily life, don’t feel left out, because I don’t either. When I return home and my life isn’t running a thousand miles a minute, there will be plenty of time for me to either verbally tell the stories, or even write more blog posts. The important thing is I have pictures and my diary to jog my memory in the rare occasion I would ever forget all that has happened, which I highly doubt.
Ok, typical Breanna rant aside, I do actually have a topic that I think is kinda cool that I wanted to talk about today. I think this is something that every white/visibly foreign person who has ever set foot into Indonesia can relate to. Most countries in the world have a unique way they treat their foreigners, and Indonesia is no different. However, the Indonesian way of dealing with us bule is more often than not overwhelming. Unfortunately, after almost eight months of living here and becoming proficient in the language, my skin is still white, I still have what Indonesians call a “pointy nose” and for that reason, I will never be a local, but ALWAYS a bule.
Every time I go out, (and I mean literally every time I leave my house) people ALWAYS want to talk to me and ask me questions because it is not common for Indonesians to meet a foreigner. Which, I guess has its ups and downs. I am not really a fan of being treated differently just because of the way I look, and from time to time, I feel objectified, because I know that people are only talking to me because of my facial features, hair color and complexion. Oh, and the cat calls from men of all ages, and the constant taking pictures with strangers doesn’t help either. But, as hard as it might be at times, I realize that it is harmless and just Indonesian culture to treat people from the west like celebrities. Also, I am here as a representative of my country with YES Abroad, so I basically signed up to answer questions about my home country and daily life and the Indonesian culture just makes my job a little bit easier.
So, for all of you bule considering coming to Indo, here are the top ten questions I GUARANTEE you will be asked by locals:
1. Asli dari mana? (Which country do you come from?)
As a bule in Indonesia, your days of a friendly hello and “what is your name?” are over. Typically (at least for me) before a stranger will even ask you your name, they will want to know what country you come from. For me, every time I answer with “America” almost every person I meet becomes really excited and starts talking about either Hollywood, or Obama. Oh, that’s another thing. Indonesians loooooove Obama. When Obama was a child, he lived in Jakarta, and I cannot count the amount of times I have been told that I will become president one day because I lived and went to school in Indonesia just like Obama.
2. Bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia? (Can you speak Indonesian?)
So, as I had said before, since I look like a bule, it is assumed I am a tourist. Whenever there is a bule who can speak even the tiniest bit of Indonesian, Indonesians are very happy that you took the time to learn their language, and for that reason, they will ALWAYS tell you that your Indonesian is very good, even if it is horrible.
3. Mau kemana? (Where are you going?)
So, at first, I thought that this was a rather nosy question, especially considering the fact that it would most often come from complete strangers. After a while, I realized that this is a culture thing. When people ask “mau kemana?” most of the time they are not genuinely interested in where you are going. It’s more of a sort of greeting and way to be polite. Typically, I answer by smiling and saying “jalan-jalan”, which means just going out.
4. Sudah kemana aja? (Where have you been in Indonesia?)
Once you have told someone that you are not a tourist and do in fact live in Indonesia, they are curious to know where you have visited, and more importantly, what you liked about it. Indonesians are quite aware that they live in the most beautiful country on earth, and basically they just want to share it with you. Most Indonesians are shocked that I haven’t been to the bule capital of Southeast Asia: Bali. But, I have the greatest host parents in the world, that I will be heading there next month!
5. Suka makanan dari Indonesia? (Do you like Indonesian food?)
This goes along with the” where have you been” question. Indonesians are really proud of their beautiful country and culture and what it has to offer. So, naturally, they are curious to know what Indonesian foods you like.
6. Tinggal dimana? (Where do you live?)
Again, this one confused me for a little bit. Coming from Western culture, I thought it was strange that sometimes a complete stranger would be asking me where I live. But, it’s an Indonesian thing. They don’t want your address; they just want to know the general neighborhood. Bandung has many neighborhoods, and often where you live can be a conversation starter. I live in the Dago neighborhood, and because it is near many factory outlets, people usually ask me about shopping.
7. Tinggal sama siapa? (Who do you live with?)
Most of the time, Indonesians get confused when they find out that I am still in high school, but my natural parents are living in the US. This usually leads to a conversation about student exchange and what I am doing here and why.
8. Punya pacar? (Do you have a boyfriend?)
Ahhhh the shameless question Indonesians young and old like to ask white people. If you say yes, it is followed by all of the people in the conversation saying “aduuuuuuuuuuuh” (Indonesian version of “aww” ) in unison and then request for pictures, and then comments about how the two of you are “so sweet”. But, if you say no, then don’t worry. Indonesians aren’t going to think you are “jomblo” (single because no one wants to date you) if you just tell them that you are “single and happy”.
9. Senang tinggal di Indonesia? (Are you happy living in Indonesia?)
As I said before, Indonesians are proud of their country, and typically don’t see many westerners here. When they do meet a foreigner, they once again are genuinely curious to know how we feel about living here, and what we may possibly like or not like about it.
10. Punya nomor hp/facebook/twitter/ect..? (Do you have any type of social media and can I add you/ follow you?)
Indonesians. Love. Social. Media. Enough said. Everyone that I have met at school has Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and EVERYONE wants to add the bule. However, they are often disappointed to find that I still live in the Stone Age and only have a facebook. (I attempted to make a Twitter and Instagram, but, I just couldn’t get into it. I know. I’m weird.)
|It's gorgeous, right?|
Well, now I am on a roll and actually really enjoying this post. So, I guess I am going to continue with a few more questions. These are questions people who I know kind of well (generally classmates) will ask me.
1. Ada “bully” di Amerika? (Are there bullies in America?)
I find this question really interesting. I am frequently asked this question due to something I like to call the Hollywood Syndrome. In Indonesia, children teens and even some adults watch some western TV shows and movies. For that reason, they think that what they see on the screen is the reality for all Americans. Most of my classmates have asked me if really bad bullying occurs all the time and at every high school in America. I have to explain to them that what they see on TV isn’t necessarily true. Sure, there is a lot of bullying in America, but all students aren’t either bullies or being bullied. I think it is important for us to keep in mind that what we show in our movies or TV shows might be all another country really knows or sees about America, and it has been the cause of some negative stereotypes.
2. Bagimana hantu di Amerika? (Literally, what are the ghosts like in America?)
So, I think this is my favorite question that I have ever been asked. Mostly, because of how freaking confused I was after hearing it. In Indonesia, because everyone is required to have a religion, everyone believes in God, and therefore an afterlife. So, it comes as no surprise that almost everyone here openly believes in ghosts, and a staggering number have claimed to have paranormal encounters. The first time I heard this question, I assumed that my Indonesian friends assumed that Americans have the same views about ghosts and spirits, and I, or someone I know has seen one before. My answer was something like, “ummmmm they look like bule.” But then, as I was asked more frequently, I figured something out. Sometimes in the question, there was the word “cerita”, which means story in Indonesian. In Indonesia, there is also a large amount of folklore, myths and ghost stories, like the infamous “pocong”, the unfortunate soul who was not buried properly and roams through Indonesia. They weren’t asking me about specific ghosts, but, rather the folklore and ghost stories common in America.
3. Sudah ketemu artis siapa? (Which celebrities have you already met?)
Again, the Hollywood Syndrome. Because the only thing that Indonesians really see or hear about America comes from Hollywood, they assume that America is crawling with celebrities, and it is really easy to meet them. I have disappointed many a classmate by saying, no, I have not met Justin Bieber….. or Taylor Swift…… or Katie Perry…….or any of the members of One Direction.
4. Boston dekat NewYork/LA/Las Vegas? (Is Boston close to New York or LA or Las Vegas?)
And, the Hollywood Syndrome strikes again. Indonesians for the most part only remember the American cities that are constantly being mentioned in movies or TV shows or celebrity news. But, surprisingly enough, there are some people here who know Boston because they are fans of American basketball. I have no idea why, but, in Bandung at least, the Celtics are basically the most popular team in basketball. I have had some of the guys at school know a lot more about the players and whatnot than I do.
Well, looking back, this turned out to be A LOT longer than anticipated. Thanks for sticking with me!