Indonesia, Random Decisions, and the Art of Aloneness
I knew I wanted to go somewhere totally beyond my imagination. I thought that would be India, and I could study (and hoard) a cache of beautiful fabrics (in college I was minoring in Fiber Arts—yes that's a thing). But the alphabetically-ordered university study abroad catalog had something called “Indonesia” instead. I saw that there was beautiful fabric made there—the birthplace of batik, and ancient weaving techniques. I earned a fellowship to go. I studied its charming, playful language, Bahasa Indonesia, which lets you roll your r’s for days if you want, and simply repeat words to make them plural.
Arriving in the East Java town of Malang, I remember one of the “culture” lessons we received, about walking alone. We were told that people will ask, “Are you alone?” and that the root word for alone, “sendiri,” essentially means the same as “lonely.” So if you tell people you are “sendiri,” they might assume you want company. You WILL be asked for tea—sugary, sugary tea or coffee with ginger—and you will not know when the social visit will end, and it will be hard to get out of politely.
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere…*
I am thankful for you, Indonesia! From Java to Sulawesi to Lombok, to the special Hindu hospitality of Bali, I hope others have a chance to increase their awareness of and appreciation for this country—whose culture and industry effects each of us in ways we probably have never considered (look at where your clothes and your coffee come from, for starters!).