In trying to be poetically pensive, I often catch myself thinking of how this country is full of contradictions. How little kids race by on motorcycles or how cigarette stands lie next to every school (more like everywhere). How the thinnest people live on a diet of fried foods and the largest own meters upon square meters of vegetable gardens. How living on a mountain means you can’t tell whether or not the fog here is truly partial condensation or if you’re just in a passing cloud. How people can be afraid of cute little puppies and believe puppy-love to be real love. Some things here are just downright backwards to me. But I always wonder, are these things really contradictions or just my own of what I know vs. what I expect? They’re certainly not contradictions in this culture, as this is their reality, their truth.
I think about these things and more each time I ride through the countryside on the back of a motorcycle, which I ironically find to be simultaneously terrifying and soothing in the sense that rushing through degraded roads as the wind blasts past my ears happens to clear my mind. Maybe there’s something about wearing a thickly padded helmet that traps your thoughts and bounces them around your head, saying This is Your Brain, contained. Like artificially buttered popcorn kernels in a microwaveable bag. Thoughts about Indonesian people and their social customs and religion bouncing around everywhere at once. Despite being taken aback by some aspects of their lives (<$1 for a cigarette pack, bottom-low wages, the normalcy of infidelity), I absolutely love learning about this culture. Learning about it makes me learn more about myself, as well as what I value and treasure back at home in America.
I’ve always believed that being quick to judge or stereotype is something that we have to constantly remind ourselves not to do and experiences in foreign situations tend to test that belief. But really, being accepting of difference, of contradictions, of things you’re not familiar with isn’t that difficult (ahem, DOMA). And having faith in humanity means believing that people can be good, even despite the differences that seem to you as flaws. Living in this village among some of the kindest, most welcoming people has made me resent and refuse the stereotypes I hear about Indonesians; it has reinforced my consciousness to be even more accepting of the unknown than I was yesterday.
Usually I press the instant “POPCORN” button on the microwave, wait for the screen to say “ENJOY,” and take my bag of popcorn to go. I’m content disregarding that warning on the bag and taking the shortcut to satisfaction. But this time I’m taking the time to carefully process my jumble of thought kernels, learning not to just take first impressions for face value but mulling them over underneath this hot Indonesian sun, sometimes while racing through the wind on a crowded street.