It’s that time in my service. Time when I write a reflective piece about how I’ve been in Indonesia for a year but still have one year to go. I’ve been putting this off for a while because I was not sure what there is to reflect upon; but this past weekend the new group of volunteers (ID11) visited their permanent sites and hearing about them making that trip provided some perspective on this topic.
My desa (village) during training, Manisrenggo, has been an excellent place to find my footing here in Indonesia. Everybody I have met has been friendly, hospitable, and generous. I never make it out of someone’s house without having been offered an array of delicious foods and plenty of water. Everyone is always very curious to talk about America and find out what the trainees think about Indonesia, the local food, the people.
There are many intersections between Islam and traditional Javanese culture in Indonesia. Tahlilan and yasinan are great examples of one of those intersections. During PST I was fortunate enough to attend nearly a dozen such cultural events with my bapak. My original goal, as my goals so often are, was too ambitious. I had hoped to explain exactly what tahlilan and yasinan are, how they’re different, where they fit into indigenous Indonesian traditions and modernist orthodox Islam. However; even after having queried my community liaisons (CLs), my host family, and many other volunteers about this subject I still find my knowledge about these subjects lacking and my understanding short of what it should be.
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.
This past Wednesday, the first of June, my Peace Corps class concluded pre-service training and was sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). The start of our two years of service officially began. We received our Peace Corps pins, and most of us said goodbye to Kediri, our first home in Indonesia.
Rumah Indonesia saya means my Indonesian home. The family I have been living with for PST has been spectacular. I have been very lucky in that my family and I have gotten along with no problems. Of course, this might be because Indonesians are very hospitable and accommodating, but I’d like to think it’s because we’re just a perfect match for each other. I’ve never been made to feel, or treated, like I was anywhere other than home. That’s not to say my time with my homestay family has always been smooth sailing. All the hospitality and accommodation in the world doesn’t actually make a place home. It takes a little bit more than being comfortable to feel at home somewhere.