Comparisons to Indonesia
I would be inhuman indeed if I didn’t walk around here and think of how my new home compares to my last home away from home (in that it’s human to compare things). It simultaneously is interesting to me to do so, is something I can’t help, and is something that makes me sad. So I should stop doing it, right? Here goes:
– People here honk to let people know that they’re coming up around a bend on motorized vehicles, etc., but they honk REALLY LOUDLY – I try to make this remind me of Boston, somehow. In Indonesia, people have a way of honking so politely and cutely that you can’t be mad.
– I constantly find myself trying to say “Is this ok? This is no problem, right?” etc. Indonesian has a saying for this that can be used as a question (Tidak apa apa? Is this ok?), before a subjunctive phrase (Tidak apa-apa kalau… = It’s no problem if…), or as a follow up to pretty much anything. To me, it was a safety phrase, or a CYA phrase – I would always ask if something was a problem and usually received an answer to the effect of “It’s no problem! No worries!” Here in India, you can’t use the phrase “koi bat nahiin” (in Hindi script = literally “it’s not a matter”, it’s no problem) in the same way. People laugh at me when I use it too often – I guess you’re really only supposed to use it in response to “Thank you”. This is a product of me being me (I apologize for things I don’t have to apologize for) and me being used to the nuances of a different foreign language.
– I REALLY LIKE INDIAN MUSIC AND FILM. I was not as into dangdut music in Indonesia as some of my Indonesian friends. I do miss karaoke in Indonesia though!
– Surprisingly, I like Indian bus rides (the longest one I’ve been on was 12 hours, and that was actually fine). Over the past few days I’ve been on a few through the countryside during the day, and when I’ve gotten a seat the views have been breath-taking.
– I miss the people in Indonesia always saying hi to me. I know this was mostly because I was such an alien, with my white/single female traveling alone/foreigner stamp on my forehead, that often translated into “THAT GIRL’S PROBABLY GOT MONEY”, but I also know that people talked to me because I smile and I am a nice person. Here, maybe because white people are not as much of a novelty, or maybe because it’s not culturally appropriate/done to say hi to people you don’t know, very few people say hi to me (again, I should just remember that Boston is that way and not be so homesick). It hasn’t stopped me from trying to say “Namaste, Jii” to people on the street though.
– Drinking water was easy to come by in Indonesia, at least where I lived. Most people I knew had a water cooler similar to the ones in offices, and it was extremely easy to get it filled up every week or so. Here (see last post), I worry about my drinking water, and people worry for me, which makes me worry even more.
– People where I live are QUIET. In Indonesia, there was always someone awake doing something. I couldn’t sleep for the first two weeks very well at all because there was some chicken squawking or some students singing or gym class at 5:30am or the call to prayer at 4:30 – it drove me nuts the first few weeks, but then I joined in. I added something to the noise. And noise is a huge part of my life – I am a singer, to some extent, after all. Living next to two nuns who are on a silent retreat (in that they can’t verbally communicate with me) is proving to be a bit difficult because even before bedtime, they like it quiet. More on this later.
– Where I lived in Indonesia, there were very limited transportation options – I could take a small motorized pedicab/bentor or a bus/mikrolet around town, a car to a farther away city, or a plane. Planes were pretty much the only efficient way to get to other islands. In India, there are TRAINS (which they do have on Java in Indonesia) and BUSES that can pretty much take you anywhere. It kind of amazes me.
There is a mosque that I just began hearing that sings the call to prayer several times a day (including 4:30am)! The first time I heard it, I was instantly emotionally transported to my home in Indonesia, and tears came to my eyes. It’s nice to associate that sound with a homey place – it helps me keep thinking I’m meant to be exactly where I am.
Next up: more details on my work here, and a surprise Canadian roommate!