There’s nothing that makes me happier than sleeping in. Part of it could be because since I’ve adapted to this lifestyle of waking up every day at 5:15 AM (where sleeping-in until 8:00am elicits feelings of guilt because it’s like sleeping past noon), I’ve felt like I deserve it, but also because since I was little, I’ve been known to have some of the most vividly bizarre dreams. Usually I can’t even begin to decipher their meanings but allowing that time for my mind and imagination to swallow up reality for a couple of hours and regurgitate this alternate world, is really quite cool. And lately I’ve found myself using Indonesian in my dreams. I haven’t had dreams of being back home since April though last night was particularly funny as I was in a fancy fictional Japanese grocery store with my mom. Everything was intimately lit, making the products seem all the more appealing as we strolled along romantic antique hardwood floors. It had a very earthly feel to it–I already know this reflects me missing frequent health food store runs with my mom and sister. We were walking through aisles filled with fresh shrimp skewers, neatly packaged seaweed salads, and overly-priced imported condiments and spreads. Among the most memorable though, airtight-sealed pre-sliced apples (from Japan) with peanut butter. Not sure if this exists, it’s a silly idea, but the Japanese are no jokers when it comes to creating wacky nonessential, but profitable items to make our lives a little more perplexing than it already is. This is all besides the point though. In my dream, I had just completed my PC service and was trying to explain to my mom how PCVs sometimes spurge on essentials like peanut butter, Pringles, and… OREOS. She wasn’t getting it though. I’m not so sure what there was to actually “get” about that statement, but there was a definite sense of frustration I felt, like I was talking to someone who just wasn’t understanding what I had just been through the past twenty-seven months. I woke up this morning feeling strange, perhaps confused because I’m not really looking forward to returning home. I really shouldn’t even be worrying about that, I have another twenty months here. Perhaps, it’s possible the charm of being here will have faded and by that time, I’ll be ready. When I do waste time worrying about returning home to an unwelcoming economy and jobless-market, I also fear that I’ll be returning to a foreign yet familiar lifestyle, this changed person, as if this entire experience never happened, like all of the lessons taught, relationships formed, and the awkwardly-wonderful, frustratingly-rewarding moments were all just a dream.
In a long-overdue e-mail to friends back home, I wrote about how I’ve been spending too much time trying to craft these poetic accounts of my life here to convey as much detail as possible. It was taking too long, and too much was happening for me to keep up, so I kept putting it off. Mahon ma’af! My apologies!
All five senses have a distinctive purpose and if only I could attach the unmistakable snippets that make here, HERE, to titillate each one of those senses THERE, then everything would be as sensational as peanut butter and Oreos.
I can’t send you the call to prayers, the endless trails of ants, the ridiculously outdated motorcycles that aggressively gurgle and occasionally spew gasoline, the macho roosters who strut the streets imitating the often painful screeches of dinosaurs being decapitated, the Javanese that flutters throughout the village like chatty-Cathy parakeets, and the look of puzzled amusement as I attempt to de-code whatever it is they could be gossiping about when it seems like nothing worth gossiping about ever happens (oohhh but I’m quite wrong). Or the giggles in the distance when I return a wave, endless discoveries of gecko poop, the annoyance I feel inside when obnoxious men so-confidently yell “Hall-oooo MIIIIII-STER!”, or wholesomeness I feel before hitting the road, when my seven year-old neighbor warns me with a big grin in English, “be careful!” revealing the recent loss of baby teeth. I can’t send you a sample of my favorite foods, the exotic fruits, or the disgracefully dry mothball tasting poop disguised as roti (bread) that has Indonesians fooled, but not me, oh nooooooo!
I wish I could send you the looks of sincere curiosity when people ask me if it rains in America, the responses photos of me playing with my dog in the snow evoke, or the times when I couldn’t feel more jubilant because a student told me they’re happy I’m there. Or the bursts of laughter when I try to recite Javanese tongue-twisters while standing on a tiled platform in front of a classroom of forty sweaty teenagers, “okay now YOU try saying ‘she sells seashells by the seashore'” in an attempt to regain my integrity. Or finally figuring out which language the Mandarin teacher is actually trying to speak to me in, there’s about four options, all of which equally confuse me as I try to translate only to figure out that I’m about five minutes too late with my response. And the cheers heard throughout the neighborhood that demonstrate everyone in the village is glued to same soccer match on TV.
Or the simple conversations with other PCVs who just get it. It’s quite a relief to know that I’m not absolutely crazy sometimes. …Or the smell of burning plastic that on occasion can be mistaken for bacon (only on good days), or the feeling of anxiety on those days when I want to explore and reflect by myself but instead end up getting hollered at and interrogated, or the sight of my most disruptive and rowdy students, in a moment of utter peace and devotion, as they are engulfed in their routine afternoon prayer. Most often than never, I’m constantly sweating, my face is so shiny you could probably catch a glimpse of your own reflection but I wouldn’t recommend trying. I’m also fighting an ongoing battle with the indomitable pimple warriors as this climate has not been too kind to my skin.The Connections. The Questions. The People. The Culture Shock. The Smiles. My Family. My Community. My Students. The Children. The Motivation. The Bruises. The Illnesses. The Embarrassments. The Smells. The Lack of Motivation. The Traditions. The Curiosity.
The Feelings. The Sounds. The Rant Sessions. The Air. The Ceremonies. The Facades. The Thrills. The Weight Lost. The New Freckles. The Sweat. The Laughs. The Confusion. The Crazy Boys. The Loneliness. The Rubber Time. The Terribly Annoying Flies and Mosquitoes. The Rampant Cheating. The Jilbabs. The Rats. The Joy. The National Sense of Pride. The Rewards. The Repetitiveness. The What-The-Hell-Am-I-Doing-Here-Moments. It’s all real, it’s not just a twenty-seven month long Java dream. Though malaria induced dreams, wow, thank goodness those are only dreams, I’ve had some trippy ones.This experience is very much real in every sense. I’ll stop listing things because I’m sure you get it. I’ve never experienced this much self-awareness all at once before, but it’s incredibly exhilarating and empowering and I like it! I feel like a human-sponge!
I don’t want to come off as self-absorbed or anything but many Indonesians I’ve met enjoy looking at my photos and seeing things from my perspective. Everything I capture is something they’ve grown up with, the landscapes, the day-to-day things, to an extent they’re desensitized. I’m nervous that a day will come within the next year where I won’t find things interesting enough to photograph anymore because everything’s sudah biasa (as usual). In no particular order, a few of my favorites that pretty accurately represent Indonesia through my lens (scroll over for captions). A few have already been featured on my photo blog, Fresh to Death Indo. It’s fun to see how my photography has progressed and improved as I’ve grown more comfortable using my Canon Rebel T2i that I bought in early January. Though I do miss my Polaroid days and minus the bulkiness, having an SLR has been fantastic.