The phrase “typical Tuesday,” as immortalized by Taylor Swift’s hit 2009 song You Belong with Me, is somewhat of a fallacy as no individual day can really be an accurate representation of all like-named days. But in as much as any day can be said to be “typical,” I suppose this Tuesday was as good a use of that word as any other day.
The Sunday after Idul Fitri began like any other day from the past month. I woke up around five, mandied, had breakfast, and continued to read my book on the history of the United States Postal Service (it’s fascinating). At some point midmorning my host family niece (I think, the family relations are still uncertain to me) asked me something. What she asked specifically, I do not know. But she used the words ambil, ikan, and kolam. Something about taking a fish, but I couldn’t understand whether they were asking if I had taken a fish, if I would take a fish, if they should take a fish, or some other equally odd question. Eventually, and after some helpful charades, I remembered kolam means pond. They were inviting me to a pond with them to go fishing.
I like plans, schedules, agendas. Writing out what I’m going to do tomorrow, next week, or next year helps me organize my thoughts, set goals, and plan for contingencies. Peace Corps is not always conducive to these habits. Indonesia laughs at this practice and tosses it aside. I must say, I don’t really mind when things don’t go to plan. It seems the only consistency here, and in life in general I suppose, is inconsistency.
Indonesians are quite the inquisitive people. Upon first meeting someone they are prone to inquire about all sorts of things most Americans would find odd, or even impolite, to ask an acquaintance. Age, marital status, religion, and when you have had your most recent shower or meal are all things Indonesians do not hesitate to ask. These are not questions many Americans would readily find appropriate to pose, even to someone with whom they regularly associate.
In Indonesia every Peace Corps volunteer lives with a host family. Originally, before I came to Indonesia, I wasn’t too thrilled with this prospect. I appreciate autonomy and independence. The challenge of inserting myself into a family as an absolute foreigner and trying to find a balance between two very different cultures seemed like something I didn’t want to go through. Now, however, I could not imagine living in Indonesia without a host family. It has been one of the best parts of my time in the Peace Corps thus far.
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The first several days with my homestay family were particularly difficult. I couldn’t understand anything my ibu said and very little of what my bapak said. No one spoke to me in English so I had to rely on only two days of training in bahasa Indonesia. During my first week of PST limited communication with my homestay family was only a small part of the my vast collection of fledgling Peace Corps trainee woes.
The weekends during PST are filled with many different activities and events that our host families have arranged or plan on us attending. My training group has been very fortunate to arrive in Kediri in the middle of wedding season. There have probably been a dozen or so trainees that have attended a wedding so far.
I have yet to go to a wedding but I hear they are quite the spectacle. The one unique cultural event I was able to attend, however, was a circumcision… party… celebration. A sunatan.