As of today, we’ve been in Indonesia for a year. Its really strange to reflect on what’s that’s been like.
Part of me feels like we’ve been here for a decade—we can communicate in bahasa Indonesia, we can navigate the culture, and we have something here that resembles a life. At the same time, I can hardly believe its been a whole year. We are almost halfway through our service and thoughts about post-Peace Corps are starting to enter our heads…its too early for that!
As we look back on our first year here, we thought that the best way to show how the experience has changed us (at least superficially) would be to list the things that, one year ago when we first arrived in Indonesia, we would have never expected to learn.
- That the occasional lizard in your rice, ants on the wall, mosquito larva in the bathroom, mice in the kitchen, and rats in the shower would become an often enough occurrence that it would almost seem normal.
- The importance of consulting the ancient Javanese calendar to know what days to be extra vigilant on the road, because when its cow day at the market, you have to be careful and avoid the flying “projectiles” that come from the cows as the trucks carrying them fly by.
- That vinegar is the solution to everything. From clearing mold, to freshening our laundry, to dealing with skin issues, it really can do everything.
- What whole nutmeg looks like.
- That mung beans would become our favorite healthy dish
- That boiling mung beans and skimming the top of the water will remove all of the dead/live bugs that had infested the beans, and we would still eat them.
- That papaya is a wonderful assistant in dealing with digestive issues.
- That a sarong would become my default evening-wear.
- That missing an entire season of Kentucky basketball isn’t that bad…when they play a season like this year’s.
- That missing an entire year of Phish tour IS that bad…when they are playing their best music in a decade.
- That there is a HUGE difference between boiled water and boiled and filtered water.
- That we would become slightly Indonesian in that we no longer have any problem asking someone how much they paid for an item, asking what illness a teacher/student is suffering from, or immediately staring at the screen of another teacher’s computer to see what exactly they are doing on the Internet.
- That eating a breakfast at McDonalds or dinner at Pizza Hut (places we would usually never go to back home) would feel like the equivalent of eating at 21C in Louisville or Brasserie Beck in DC.
- That we would have no problem acing an interview, in bahasa Indonesia, that was broadcast to over 5 million people in the Surabaya area.
- That in some professional settings, if a woman is in charge, its perfectly acceptable and expected to call her “Mama.”
- That seeing helmet-less babies on motorcycles (with 2-4 other family members) and toddlers standing in the front seat of cars would become our ‘normal’.
- That, eventually, we would be able to sleep through the blaring 4am call to prayer from our village’s mosque.
- That we would develop pavlovian responses to the questions we get asked multiple times everyday: “where are you from?”, “what is your favorite Indonesian food?”, “what do you think about Indonesia?”, “are you comfortable here?”, and on…and on…and on.
- That we would eventually, sorta, adapt to the climate. Or, rather, our tolerance for being covered in sweat would become much greater.
- That people fawning over us everyday, telling us how smart and handsome/beautiful we are, and, in some cases, just wanting to touch us can eventually get really annoying.
- That we can make Mexican food out of anything. Give Amy 5 minutes at the motorcycle cart that comes by in the mornings and we’ll have burritos, homemade salsa and guacamole for dinner.