Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I think I’m turning Javanese, I really think so.

It’s happening. While the odds of fully escaping the bumbling Brody syndrome are still fairly low, I have had some realizations lately indicating that my perceptions are, indeed, slowly changing. For instance: 

  • Sometimes I fish the ants out of my morning hot chocolate, but most days now, I don’t even bother. 
  • A few weeks ago, I was watching a movie, and I experienced a slight feeling of disgust when Jennifer Lopez was scarfing food in an unrefined manner with her left hand. Left hand usage is usually a “no no” considering the bathroom situation, and, after 7 short months of conditioning, I was surprised to catch myself physically jerking at this sight.
  • I felt embarrassed for a guest speaker who recently came to talk to volunteers and was wearing a low-cut dress. After half a year of barely showing my collarbone, it made me feel uncomfortable, and I finally had a glimpse of what it must be like for conservative Indos to see Westerners prancing around tourist attractions in skimpy attire.
  • It is almost impossible for me to make any decisions more than 8 hours into the future. In the beginning, I was supremely agitated over not knowing the full story of things. I would get in a car with no idea where I was going. I could be in that same car for one hour or seven. You could never really tell. Somehow, along the way, though, this becomes OK. Or you learn to deal with it. In my case, I seem to avoid any comprehension that time will continue to exist after an 8-hour period. This works for me. 
  • When I first came, I wondered why my family didn’t just put a couch in front of the TV as that is where they always congregate, but now I’m also partial to squatting on the floor mats and mattresses or plopping down right on the cool, linoleum tile.  
  • Today I went the whole day without ever using an electric fan, and on a visit back to my original training village, I couldn’t stop remarking how cold it was. Not that anyone ever discusses actual temperature, but it was probably around low 70s back in Malang. I would guess it is usually high 80s and 90s at my site during the dry season. I think. I am usually sweating no matter what - so, after a certain point, it doesn’t really matter anymore.
Aside: Here lies another difference between Indonesians and Americans: the topic of weather in casual conversation. In Indonesia, it’s hot or cold or sumuk (humid). It may be mendung (about to rain) or hujan (raining). And that’s about it. Temperature never comes up, and it has only struck me now, after being out of my own country for almost 8 months, just how much time is devoted to the topic of weather in America. I wondered exactly how many people are employed with researching and reporting weather on a daily basis there, and I found that meteorology as a career was identified by US News and World Report as one of the top 50 best jobs of 2011. Heh. I don’t how many people would be employed with such pursuits here. Maybe a handful? What’s to report? It’s pretty much always hot. During rainy season, it rains. During the hot season, it doesn’t. Not much to discuss. Although, a weatherman’s odds at being correct sure would be a heck of a lot better here.
  • Perhaps the greatest indicator of my progress in integrating is my ability to successfully insert the straw into the commonly-used Aqua water cups. I started out with a poor success-rate, maybe 3 out of 10 tries punctured the straw through the seal. The other times I had to have fellow teachers, principals, religious heads, or their wives come to my aid, usually causing a ruckus during important meetings. Now, I am looking at about an 8 out of 10 success rate. I’m doing it! 
The successful puncturing of my 1023rd Aqua water cup. My measure of success in Peace Corps service.

Oh right, and here are pics from my host sister's wedding this past weekend: 

The make-up room. LOTS of make-up.

There is a make-up team who brings all of the clothes for the ladies helping serve food and receiving guests. You grab out of the suitcase like a game of dress-up and pin and sew to make it fit. I had nothing else going on, so I joined in.

My sister and her husband. They were actually already married in the house back in September with around 200 guests, and this is at the reception this past weekend with about 1000 guests invited. I am still foggy on the separate wedding/reception as it doesn't seem terribly common here. I will keep you posted. Here, my sister is preparing to ceremoniously wash her husband's foot.
My sister flanked by my bapak and ibu.
My bapak leads the bride and groom to their place on the stage.

Some of the awesome kids in my extended host family who traveled in. We played lots of Pig and Hangman the night before. Oh, the whole family also got to wear matching batik made especially for the occasion. I was pretty jealous I did not get to join as I live for any reason to dress in matching attire.

Many items to comment on here. Not sure what is more disturbing - the 8 layers of make-up, my Johnny Bravo hair-do, or the fact that I look about 45 years-old. I also enjoy this for the standard blank stares of my fellow teachers and the completely frightened look of my counterpart's daughter. Awesome.

With pals, Bu Yani, my counterparts Bu Olif and Pak Saiyfu, along with his daughter

Extended fam from Jakarta

My best bud, Adit. We played about 100 rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors. He's my biggest fan.

The receiving line. So, guests basically just line up, shake hands with the parents and bride and groom, get their picture taken, shuffle off to eat food while listening to other guests sing along to dangdut music (no dancing), and then leave. 

That bowling alley wedding dream is looking pretty spectacular about now. 

Yeah, perhaps I'm not as Javanese as I thought.

1 comment:

  1. sangat ayu, mbak erin! i totally feel you on the ants, sweating profusely, and the battles of us vs. aqua cups (algjlkfjskj!!!)