Greetings from Bandung! 3 Weeks In!
Hello everyone! (I’m adding some pictures from my cell phone in low light, so I apologize for the quality)
So I’m 3 weeks into Indonesia. My Bahasa(language) Indonesia classes have been happening since the 11th. I’ve been dropping weight (because of all the travelers diarrhea). Remind me to never again eat from food prepared by men peddling meatballs door to door. I’m pretty sure I must have picked up a parasite species or two. 🙁
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the past few weeks has really been teaching me a lot… about myself.
1. I really am a loner. Back in the states I spent a lot of my time alone. Throughout high school, throughout college, during my somewhat brief working career. In the past. I never really thought this was out of the ordinary until a friend laughed in disbelief that I would eat alone at restaurants. As uncommon as it may be in the US, I’m like an entirely different species here. The Sundanese (native people group in Bandung) friends that I’ve made hang out till 11 PM everyday. After a couple hours of hanging out, I can’t wait to go home or to the cafe to do ‘work’ (by myself, of course). When I tell people here that, they look at me like I’m crazy.
Even my Arab roommates are very social, always talking to someone, wanting to spend time together. I, in the meantime, try to sneak out of the apartment so I won’t have to tell them that, “no, I don’t want to go to the cool park today,” and “I want to go to the nearby cafe alone. To study.”
2. I am incredibly privileged to be a native speaker of English. Guess what language all of my language teachers speak in? English. Everyone and their grandmothers are trying to get better at English here. The teachers, the students, the cab drivers, the building custodian, my landlord.
My classmate, who is from Saudi Arabia, struggles in our class. His English is not good. When we come across an Indonesian word we don’t know, the teachers translate it into English. He cannot understand the English definition, so he struggles to type in the word (which is in Latin characters, not Arabic) into his phone to get an Arabic translation.
Everyone who is in this scholarship program was required to have a basic proficiency of the English language. Not the Indonesian language. So the 700 students from all over the world (of which only maybe 80 came from English 1st language countries) all take the TOEFL exam so they can come to Indonesia to learn the Indonesian language.
3. On a global scale, I have high standards for cleanliness. I have always considered myself an extremely messy person, (my family can attest to this), with a relatively high tolerance for germs. I’ll share a straw or a spoon with a friend, no problem.
But in Indonesia, I am a clean freak. Hygiene standards here are so low I want to cry every time I eat somewhere. Even walking down the street triggers my squeamish factor. I thought that I was low maintenance, but these Indonesian people put me to shame.
To illustrate this disgust that I feel, I’ll share this story. I was eating at a street side stall, (they are called warungs), with a local friend. After the meal is done, he tells me to tie and utterly destroy the plastic straw I was using. Confused, I ask him why. “Because otherwise they will reuse them.” While my mouth drops in disgust, he flings away his toothpick he was using into the darkness outside, and nods for me to do the same. Again I ask him why. He says, “Because otherwise they will reuse them.”