Wednesday, January 8, 2014

So you want to come to Indonesia?

So you want to come to Indonesia? Well, the good news is this; you have just made the best decision of your life because this country is as close to heaven as one could get. But before you set off on your Indonesian escapade, there are a few things you should know.

1. Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 islands- 6,000 which are inhabited. With so many islands, this has led to unmeasurably rich diversity within the country. Bali is nothing like Java, and Kalimantan is nothing like Sulawesi. No two islands are the same- Food, language, clothing, etiquette, all of these variables differ between the islands.

2. Everything is fried. I thought America was crazy with fried Oreos, Twinkies, and marshmallows. But Indonesia takes it to a whole different level with fried BANANAS. Bananas, one of the healthiest foods on the planet, looses all of that healthiness as it's tossed in the frier... But it's delicious, and debatably my favorite food in this country. Everything else is fried, too: Rice, noodles, fish, chicken, donuts, vegetables, eggs, etc. I know many of these things sound normal, but it's the amount of fried foods that I eat that is strange and foreign to me. I can count on eating SOMETHING, if not everything, fried in one meal.

3. You better have social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and even ones I hadn't heard of before coming here like Line and Path. Indonesian teens, and many adults as well, are social media OBSESSED. So if you want to fit in, you better learn how to hashtag and utilize the best Instagram filters.

4. Be ready for some interesting public transportation adventures! In America, many cities have subways, taxis, and trains to transport its people. While Indonesia does have taxis, and a few trains, more commonly, ojek and angkot are used on a daily basis. What is ojek you may ask? Ojek is like taxi in motorcycle form. Personally, it's my favorite mode of transportation because it's fast, and there is no better feeling than being slapped in the face with your hair on the back of a motorcycle. Angkot is a mini van with benches lining the inside walls. Angkot is sort of the subway of Indonesia, in the sense that each van follows a certain route and it's the least expensive to get around. But beware: Angkot routes aren't actually posted anywhere. You just sort of have to hop on and hope you end up where you need to be.

5. Love the comfort of toilet paper? Well you better pack some for yourself, because most public bathrooms don't have any. They just have a bucket with water, and a scoop. Or if you're lucky, a hose. In fact, most public bathrooms aren't western toilets either. A typical Indonesian bathroom is a squat toilet- Picture basically a porcelain hole in the ground. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Indonesian bathrooms. But nevertheless, I've ended up with some good stories.

6. Juice, juice, juice. It's everywhere. And it's fresh. I can get a glass of homemade mango juice for about fifty cents. HOWEVER. Be careful. Because I'm almost certain that street juice made me sick approximately three times when I first came here. But overtime, your system will adjust, and you'll be left with a stomach of steel.

7. I hope you like feeling like a celebrity, because if you're a white foreigner coming to Indonesia, odds are you'll spend 50% of your trip posing for pictures with Indonesians. The locals here call us "bule." And there sure aren't very many bule in these parts, so when Indonesians spot one, they'll come running. When I went to Borobudur, I had a line of people waiting to take a picture with me. It can become a bit obnoxious at times, but enjoy the stardom while you can, and use it as an excuse to talk to some locals.

8. Rice all day everyday. It's the staple food here. For Americans, this is a strange concept because we really don't have a staple food, so eating something at every meal seems bizarre and can get a bit boring. But fear not! You will adjust. After almost five months here, I have to eat rice at least once a day or else I don't feel quite right. Also, the food that is paired with rice is delicious, so don't worry.

9. Respect yo' elders. Respecting authority is a very important aspect of Indonesian culture, and it's one of the hardest things I have had to adjust to since coming here. The family always comes first. If your parents give you rules, you had best be following them. If there is a family gathering, you had best be there. For most Americans, once they graduate high school it's normal to move out and make your own decisions. Whereas in Indonesia, many young adults will continue to live with their families until they are married. Family helps make all of your big decisions. Who you marry, where you go to college, what you major in. If a young adult doesn't have their parent's approval for a decision they have made, odds are they will be incredibly upset.

10. There is poverty. And at first, it's shocking. There is really no way to prepare yourself for this. AFS encourages us to remember the catchline, "It's not good, not bad. Just different." And that's all there is to it. In the midst of poverty and living conditions far different from the western world, Indonesia has so, so, SO many other beautiful qualities. You just have to look closely.

11. And finally, be ready to meet the kindest people on the face of the Earth. Indonesia will welcome you with open arms, and do everything in their power to share with you their culture, food, traditions, language, adventures, and everything else they can offer. It's truly the best place on Earth, and I applaud you for making the decision to go. And if you're just reading this for sheer entertainment, then I applaud you as well.Thank you for taking the time to learn about a little corner of the world that many people don't know about! Y'all are the best!

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