Happy new year!
I know it’s almost February, but the past month or so has been incredibly busy in the best way: with lots of travel. Travel has absolutely been one of the best parts of this experience. And traveling with my mom?? Even better.
My mom and I share a lot: shoes and clothes, a love for Diet Coke, and now, memories (and lots of pictures) of traveling together around Southeast Asia. On Christmas Day, Mom left the States to make the lonnnng trip across the world to meet up with me. On December 27th, we met up in the Bangkok airport. Reunited, we flew to a Northern Thai city called Chiang Mai. After celebrating my birthday there, we headed back South to ring in the New Year in Bangkok.
2017 began in the best way I could imagine: from Thailand, Mom and I went to Indonesia… to Malang! I got to show her around my city and take her on some adventures around East Java. In a short week, Mom learned a lot about Indonesian culture and daily life….
Macet: Java is the most populous island in one of the world’s most populous countries, There are a lot of people trying to navigate roads that lack the organization, size, and infrastructure of roads in more developed countries (e.g. the US), leading to congestion and “macet” or traffic jams. Waiting in traffic was not my mom’s favorite part of her trip, but she was able to get a sense of how life operates on “jam karet” (rubber time) and how almost everything takes more time than expected.
Tropical weather: It’s currently rainy season, meaning that, like clockwork, on any given day, one can expect a sunny, humid morning to give way to a downpour sometime between 11 am and 1 pm. Sometimes it will continue to rain into the evening, but usually the rain stops in an hour or two.
While our trip had overall really good weather, we did get stuck in one of these downpours while walking around Malang. We quickly took shelter, but she got to see how when it rains, it pours, and then almost as quickly stops.
Indonesia’s biodiversity: Indonesia has a little bit of everything when it comes to natural beauty. Within the span of only two days, Mom saw Indonesian rice paddies, jungles, beaches, savannah, and mountains. To make these beautiful views even better, we had pretty much perfect weather.
Foto-foto: Indonesians take a lot of pictures. We encountered two major kinds of picture taking: the people posing for Instagrams and the people who asked for our photos. Whether at a café or a park, we would find people very obviously posing for an Instagram. Instagram and social media are a big deal in Indonesia, and people are determined to do what it takes to get the ideal picture.
“Miss, foto?” is a question I often hear as someone waves their cellphone in my face. The racial composition of where I live is very homogenous, so I stick out quite a bit. It’s a “thing” here to take a picture with a “bule,” which literally means albino or white person, but can refer to foreigners generally. After months of being asked for my picture or having it taken without my permission almost everywhere I go, it can be quite frustrating. Going to different touristy places with Mom, she got to see how frequently I am asked for a “foto” or “selfie.” Fortunately, I’ve yet to tire of taking photos with people I know and love, so she also posed for photos with me as well.
LOUD NOISES: As one of my friends and a second year ETA said at our orientation in the fall, “Indonesia is low key loud.” I don’t think about it all the time, but yes, Indonesia can be really loud. You can almost always hear pop music from somewhere or call to prayer from the closest mosque. Although we loved our hotel, traditional Indonesian music from early in the morning to late at night. At times it stopped… we suspected that other guests complained.
Friendliness and generosity: In pretty much all our interactions, my mom got to see how friendly and generous Indonesians are. At the hotel, the staff was attentive at all times and helpful for planning our trips outside the city. We enjoyed chatting with them everyday.
Of course, one of the best parts of Mom’s visit was showing her around my school. She got to meet my principal, students, and fellow teachers. Everyone was so excited to meet her, and she was warmly welcomed. My principal even took us out to lunch and bought matching batik for us! (NB: Batik is the world-famous, traditional fabric of Indonesia)
I am incredibly grateful she was able to come, and, in her words, experience the “bustle and beauty” of this place!