Questions I’ve asked myself this past week:
- Is Peace Corps making me snarky?
- Why do questions concerning foods I eat and other inquiries about climate and geography make my blood begin to boil?
- Does justifying the creation of a ‘PCV Indo FAQ’s’ pamphlet to distribute to curious people I meet, because it’s beneficial to my mental health, make me less snarky?
- What in the world is Cyclospora?
- Why is Javanese culture harder to adapt to and understand than other cultures I’ve experienced?
- Why do flies like to land on my MacBook frequently?
- Is there any real concrete way for future PCVs to prepare for cultural challenges and adaptation?
- What are Indonesian’s really learning in school?
- Do the decision-makers in Jakarta know that teaching geography and languages in the same linear and formulaic style as geometry and physics, make my job here exponentially more difficult than it already is?
- How can I avoid acquiring Cyclospora this rainy season?
- How do I humanely confront the rat who’s sought refuge in my bedroom recently, that aside from the fact that my room is crowded enough as it is with the already unwelcome guests (geckos, colony of ants, mosquitoes, other insects), that there’s a lengthy and competitive application process if s/he wants to become my roomie…errrrr…pet?
- And most importantly, am I an alien? (and is it a coincidence that today I finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?)
This may come as shock to a few of you, but for the record, no, I am not an alien. Even though I’m about to publish this for the entire cyber world to see, it’s 97.99% unlikely that my colleagues and community members will find/read this entry, therefore I have quite some work to do my remaining nineteen months here to prove my humanness. What does this mean though?This entire ‘alien’ discussion came up during an informal chat with my counterpart. She said that some of the other teachers had asked her if Americans <hand-motions coming from the booty> ‘how do you say…gas…?’, ‘ooooh <slightly embarrassed giggle> fart!’ I proudly watched my counterpart expand her vocabulary as she wrote the new word down in her notebook as I spelled ‘F-A-R-T’ aloud. It was a funny moment, but then I took an imaginative step back from the situation. A bell rang inside of my head at how incredibly absurd this was because I knew it was a serious inquiry from the other teachers. I learned at a very young age about regular human bodily functions… among many other things that us humans are capable of, all humans breathe, eat, sleep, and poop. One of my neighbors, a little eight year-old, asked me a while ago if Americans <again with the hand motions> pooped. It was cute, her curiosity charming, but can you imagine growing up into an adult, thinking that Americans or other people in the world, didn’t have the same bodily functions or needs as you? I don’t think it’s ever, ever once crossed my mind if people in other parts of the world get away with not breathing, eating, sleeping, or pooping. It was just assumed that because we’re all humans (and living beings at that)… living in geographically different areas and climates in the world and having different cultures doesn’t exempt us from these basic functions.
After I taught my counterpart the saying ‘silent but deadly’ and we finished laughing like little girls about flatulence, I steered the conversation towards the absurdity of other odd questions that I’ve been asked the past eight months. Questions that made me feel like I was the iconic Google search engine (I’ll admit, I’m guilty of asking some silly questions too, most recently: ‘what does it mean if I dream about riding roller coasters?’) or otherwise, an alien. That was when my counterpart blurted it out ‘okay, since you’ve brought it up, to be honest, you are an alien here’. Even though I knew she meant nothing hurtful by it, and she was just reiterating something I already knew and am still learning to accept, hearing her say those words, struck something deep in me, made my stomach tighten up. I felt myself hold some tears back. No matter how much I integrate into this community, breathe, eat, sleep, and poop Indonesia, sheesh, even if I married an Indonesian and ended up living here for the rest of my life, I’ll always be perceived as an alien.
Maybe it’s because sometimes I look like this when I bike around my community, cute, right?…In my next care package, perhaps a copy of “Everybody Poops” should be included. Along with White Cheddar Cheez-Its and trail mix! Just sayin’. Oh and just rediscovered how much I love this music video by Fatboy Slim and America, because stuff like this happens.