A little over 2 years agoI spent four months in Indonesia. I didn’t really travel across the country, at least not in the way that most young adults do, backpacking through Bali. Instead I had the great privilege to live and work in Indonesia, and see it from the inside. It’s hard to put to words all that I learned, and impossible to do justice to the people I met and the experiences I had. However, my experiences in Indonesia changed my life.
1) There is so much more to Indonesia than Bali
Towards the end of my trip myself and my roommate joined a local tour company heading to Bali. The bus drove across Java then we rode a ferry from Java to Bali. Bali has beautiful beaches and thriving nightlife but also westernized shops and culture. While I loved Bali, it doesn’t truly represent the majority of Indonesia. Indo is over 80% Muslim, most beaches are littered with trash, and it is highly frowned upon for women to wear shorts or bathing suits in most areas.
If you are travelling to Indonesia, I can’t emphasize enough to explore more than Bali. Explore the beautiful beaches of Lombok (my favourite place), the beauty of mount Bromo, the hustle of Jakarta (one of the most populated cities in the world), and the temples and shopping in Yogyakarta. Learn authentic Indo culture.
2) The threat of natural disasters in very real.
I got a panicked message from my mom one night. A plane had crashed shortly after take off from Jakarta and she was nervous I was on it. I experienced a very strong earthquake, saw an active volcano erupt, and almost died on a ship that was going to tip over (the only time in my life I actually feared for my life). I learned to never take my safety for granted- I also learned to enjoy every day and not fear the unknown.
3) Breakfast isn’t breakfast and a meal isn’t a meal without rice
When eating in Indonesia I learned to appreciate the variety of food I have in Canada. I learned that Indonesians eat frequently and enthusiastically, most importantly if you are not eating rice- it is not a meal (only a snack!). Breakfast foods were not cereal, toast or fruit- rather heavy rice bowls, chicken soup, or noodles. Noodle or rice dishes were usually accompanied by Rendang (a beef curry type food) or whole fish.
Everything I knew about what was polite table manners was thrown out the window as I learned cutlery was not a normal thing and everyone ate with thier hands.
3) Everyone wants to be your friend- mostly because you are a ‘Bule’
A ‘Bule’ originally meant Albino in Indonesian- however it really just refers to someone who is white. Both myself and my room mate would see people point and yell ‘bule’ as we walked through markets or rode on scooters. Everyone would want to take a picture with you and I got numerous offers to marry a local.
4) Thier Culture is amazing
From the food to the dances to the religion- Indonesian culture is amazing. Canadian culture is very mixed and diverse so I’ve never known what it was like to have such a strong culture.
5) Indonesians run on thier own clock
One of the largest lessons I learned from Indonesia was to relax and not worry about time. In Indonesia, everyone was always running late, often blaming traffic. However, there was never a rush to get moving or get a task completed. It is very different than western culture and a lesson alot of our population here could learn.