Friday, February 04, 2011

January, February..... hello, March.

It's been a busy few months. When I don't update my blog it's usually because: 1) I feel like I only have negative things to say and I feel like I should keep them to myself 2) I am busy as heck and finding 10 minutes to update the blog is impossible 2.5) It's impossible for me to write a post in a mere 10 minutes and so actually I need more like an hour 3) I can't accurately put into words what I want to communicate (I haven't figured the issue out in my head yet so I can't blog it) 4) My laptop breaks and I have no access to the internet.

Yep, the latter actually happened. My beloved Mac which I have consistently praised and defended against the verbal attacks of PC lovers has died. First it was the hard drive. Started making this clicking sound and then one day the tragic grey back-lit screen with a flashing folder and question mark appeared and never went away. And then my dad brought a new hard drive with him and my Mac wouldn't accept it. Boo.
Consequently, the pictures I have taken in Indo for the last 6 months save the ones I uploaded to Facebook, are now (temporarily, I hope) lost. I threw up in my mouth a little bit when I realized through reading Mac trouble forums on the internet that people who had the same issues as I did often did not get their hard drive contents back. I have decided to be in denial and pretend there is no way that is the case with my computer, and so now it's in Phoenix with my parents and headed to a local Apple repair shop. Worse comes to worse I heard sticking it in a freezer will give me enough time to get most of my stuff off the drive. My dad suggested a hammer and swears beating his hard drive worked once for him but I am skeptical. Things don't usually break into place. Except for the Big Bang. Explosion of nothing creates an awesome, intricate world with people who breathe and love. You don't have to be a skeptic to doubt that one. Just eyes to see the beauty and gift this world is. Not a mistake or a creation of chance. It was an intentional creation of love made by the Son of God. A canvas that he is using to paint a painful picture of love, struggle, and ultimately redemption. We're in the middle of that somewhere. I believe it and I'm trying to live out my life based on that belief.

Back to blogging and my recent absence... Here was a blog post I wrote back December, I'd say. Maybe early January....

"I have recently been thinking a little more clearly and directly about my attitudes toward the Indonesian culture. And it's taken me a little more deeper into thoughts on foreign cultures in general and the way us humans react to being exposed to a different way of life and thinking that what we are used to.
I read in a friend's facebook status something on the order of this today.

Before I go into the quote I'm going to take a second to address some of the facebook dissing I've been hearing lately. I am an avid facebooker. I try not to "stalk" people I don't know well, but it's fun to see pictures of friends' engagement picture, or my brother's new sneakers, or my dad's illegally taken pictures of a movie he's watching the story line of which he wants to share. And, other than family, I have awesome friends- friends who want to improve the world, who want to dig in deeper into the meaning of justice and who God is and what Christianity is about. They post some facebook statuses that convict me, that make me think, that challenge me, that are largely beneficial to me. Statuses, links, music, articles. Facebook itself isn't all that awesome, but the friends I have on it are great, and because of that, I use it frequently. Since they updated how feeds work I largely only get feeded the good stuff. So if you think facebook is lame, maybe it's because your friends are lame. Just saying.

The quote was by Wade Davis. ‎

"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."

I have had an attitude recently about the culture around me. I'm just being honest here. It's beautiful and interesting for a while, and then when you start living here long term it becomes annoying and frustrating. I've been working through that annoyance and frustration ever since I realized that fighting against the culture was getting me nowhere. The problem was not with the culture, and the culture was not going to change for me because I was resisting it. Luckily the people here have been largely gracious to me and not pointed out my arrogance. That, or my cultural resistance has been largely internal and wasn't communicated through my actions. I hope for the latter. Either way, it's there, and it's given me a miserable few weeks. That said, it's lead to deeper thinking about what I expect from the world and it's people and why we do what we do. It's been showing me my culture and my own very deeply ingrained ideas about how the world should want to be. The world should want to be like me, and try to correct the areas it is not like me. That sounds horrible, but I'm really no different than anyone else. When an Indonesian goes to the US for the first time, I'm sure they feel a similar resistance and confusion. This is not to justify my actions but more to connect me and my experiences with the larger human condition and psyche in order to come to bigger conclusions about culture and human exposure to the different.

As individuals we live like our community revolves around us. So when things are different than what we like or believe communities should be like, there is a resistance and we either sit and gripe or we set out to change those things. Same with our country. We believe it revolves around us and so we fight against it when we believe it is different than how countries should be. So we're in this pattern of resistance. But it's not huge because we grow up in these cultures, and learn to accept them, so the resistance is there if needed but normally it's not huge.
And then you put a human in this condition straight into another country, another community, another culture. Then it's like "Whaaaaaat!" We start resisting like crazy because A) We are people of resistance. We resist all that is different than what we think it should be, because what we think it should be, is what we fight for. What we think is universally right. B) Because there is so much TO resist. We haven't had the opportunity to be acculturated subconsciously like everyone else has. So much more of a struggle.
You combine those two, plus the positive fact that you now feel like you LIVE here. The first 4 months.. a visitor. Now, I live here. Legit. Then you get a lot of resistance.

I'm trying to see the "unique manifestations of the human spirit here". To calm my natural urge to resist that which I think all people should be, which naturally is what I am, and realize that every individual I meet is just as fully human as I am. They each have their own reality. They have, collectively with each other and those from history which they have never met, created this culture which I parachuted into. All that I see, and all that I criticize, is created by people. By criticizing it, I criticize the people. By resisting it and desiring it's change, I am resisting it's people and seeing, instead of who they are, what I want them to be and all the ways that they are not me. It's shameful, and I'm glad that I have realized it.

So really my resistance to the culture and my focusing on what is different goes deeper. The life of Jesus foremostly teaches the love of people and the utter importance of it. I need to work on loving people, and I really do think that will help me with the cultural adjustments.

So here is a promise: I will work on seeing "culture" as people, and when I am negative about culture, I am negative about people. I will do my best to not try and change people or think negatively about the ways they are different then me. I am not God's prototype of perfection and I am not the standard. I am but one unique manifestation of the human spirit. The world in which I was born, the family, the my surroundings, is just one model of reality. This will be a life long learning, because we are always trying to change those around us to be like us. This is a lesson that cross cultural living is teaching me that I will hopefully apply to the rest of my life.

I am not the prototype, I am not the standard. Celebrate and be who you are, and celebrate and let other be who they are. Then watch, enjoy, and love. "

That has been my last two months. A long struggle, but I do feel that I am on the other side, and better for it.
There's something about being in the midst of struggle but living there for a while, and working through it. It's worth it.

January was spent teaching English at the local hospital. I've made a good friend there and several potentially future good friends. I also did some workshops and the university, hung out with my community and church, travelled with my sister and best friend for the first week of the month, and gained about 5 pounds.

February was a fun month with traveling to Singapore for a couple of days to renew our visas. Love that country. It's a little superficial and does not have a clear culture and identity just because of its people's diversity, but they have western food, clean bathrooms with toilet paper, and a diversity of colors sizes and shapes of people, so I like the place.
We stayed at this hostel called The Hive and at $20 a night per person, it was a good deal. Only 2 MRT (metro) stops away from Little India and only about 20 minutes MRT travel to Orchard, the main shopping district. I had been to Singapore before with Joel before coming to Indonesia to get our visas the first time, so it was nice coming back and knowing the ropes at least a little bit. We did good and there was no huge getting lost dilemmas although we cut it a bit too close getting to the airport the morning of our departure. The trip was largely centered around food and we got some awesome results from Joel's Singapore food research. Some great Mexican, Egyptian, and Indian food as well as great coffee and western food purchases at Cold Storage. Two late night McDonalds runs.. When we weren't stuffing our faces we were on a metro on our way to stuff our faces. :) Not really. We walked around a lot and got to shop a little and see some sights. Oh yeah, and we got our new visas. :) Before and after going to Singapore we stayed at Dan and Jeanne's place for two nights and I always enjoy that. I feel so at home at their house and so rested when I spend time there. I want my home to be like theirs one day.

Also in February my parents came to visit. Amanda and Jerica's visit was a little rough in some spots, just not super planned out, so I planned out my parents visit to the hour and it was worth it. It was less stress and we had a great time fitting in all we could in the short 7 days they were here. I got to see Indonesia through their eyes and that blessed me and gave me new motivation for being here. This really IS an awesome, beautiful place and I love traveling around this country and getting to know it more. We spent a day in Semarang resting and making batik, 3 days in Kudus seeing my life and community there, an hour in Salatiga visiting MCC office people, a day in Jogja seeing the sites and souvenir shopping, then a day in Jakarta taking a half day tour that took us through the old fishing area and some off the beaten path trails and discovering the best little Batavia Cafe in the old Dutch square and stuffing our faces with cheese and bread. I ran them ragged and I'm sure they'll sleep for a week now that they are home in AZ, but it was worth it. I had a rough couple of hours after they left but I jumped right back into work as soon as they were gone to that has helped with not missing them.

So February was travel and family.

March will be work and no travel. I have a very full schedule but I'm excited about it. The first day of teaching was today. It was short and good, and I napped for 4 hours when I got home. I had gone a few nights with less than my normal 8 hours of sleep and therefore needed to catch up. Unfortunately that means that it is now 1am and I am still awake as ever. Maybe that is due to the coffee I just drank... I love breaking the rules and doing stuff like drinking coffee at night. Just cause I can. And because I like coffee at night. It makes me think clearer and since it's at night that I do most of my thinking, it works out well.

I am only teaching 2 or three classes a week this semester and the rest of my teaching in Small Speaking Groups solo. I'm excited for that. It's more my style than lecturing is. I'll be working on writing a book with the senior advisor to the Minister of Education for Indonesia. I'll be doing some editing for my Bahasa Indonesian language teacher in Salatiga. I'll be teaching two evenings a week- once at a friends house teaching some guys TOEFL skills and then the other evening teaching the youth at my church. On Fridays I will continue teaching the nurses at the hospital. Thursday nights is Christopherus, an interdenominational Bible study/worship. And Tuesday nights are Papa Ron's Pizza nights, buy one get one free.
It's going to be a busy month, I'd say.
I'm going to be much more intentional about painting this month. I haven't painted but once since I got here and my creative juices are fermenting.

It's one in the morning and it's time to go wash my face and then stare at the ceiling until I can fall asleep. If I don't go do that now, I'll get too scared to go later in the night and I'll end up waking up with grit on my teeth and a pimply face. I'm not a fan of the dark and my imagination gets crazier the later the night gets.