Culture Shock

For over 3 months, I had culture shock and didn’t know it.  I know, I’m slow sometimes.

It was while I was in Jogja that I finally realised that I had been caught in Indonesian culture shock since I got here at the end of January, and that I had only recently exited it.

I remember quite clearly the minute it occurred to me.  Tugi and I had just left Ullen Sentalu museum and we were driving through a picturesque part of the countryside, headed to Prambanan, when it hit me.  I like Indonesia.  In fact, I’m happy that I’m here and experiencing life in Southeast Asia.  That made me wonder why I thought I disliked it in the first place.  It seems that I had allowed myself to focus too much on the differences between what I was used to and where I am now.

Yes, there were problems with Acehnese imigrasi, but those were not totally the kantor imigrasi’s doing, and it worked out OK.  Yes, there was some ethnic unpleasantness but that was due to lack of exposure.  Yes, my daily diet leaves a lot to be desired nutritionally but my belly is full.  Yes, my living conditions aren’t luxury accommodations but the neighbourhood is nice and so are the neighbours.  Yes, my work situation isn’t ideal but my colleagues are nice people and pretty easy to get along with.  And if all of that wasn’t enough, I’m able to experience new places in ways that I couldn’t if I was just on vacation.

When I left Jamaica, I honestly never thought about culture shock as a possibility.  I was too excited to be on my way to live in a totally new place.  Also, I’ve been travelling since I was a toddler so I wouldn’t exactly call myself unexposed.  Because of these things, it never occurred to me that I would have difficulty adjusting to life here.  And because I’m sometimes slow on the uptake, I allowed myself to be sucked into culture shock for far too long.

I’m not sure when I got over it.  It may have started when I decided to stop making my ethnicity a thing.  It may have continued when that 1 lady so generously tried to help me with my Indonesian, just because.  Seeing the beauty of Ubud and watching the sun rise behind Mt. Merapi helped, for sure.  Tugi stopping to buy me ‘honey’ snake fruit with money out of his own pocket (I tried to reimburse him but he wouldn’t take it) as we zoomed through the Jogja countryside, just because he thought I’d like it, was a definite contributor (he was right, I did like it).

That Tuesday afternoon, as we made our way to Prambanan, I realised that what had really brought me out of my culture shock was people – from my friend who had helped me to recalibrate my thinking on race to Toto, my cabbie to the airport on my way to Jogja.  While there were a few people who I allowed to make me feel angry before I got a hold of myself and stopped being so easily offended, there have been incomparably more people who have shown me grace, kindness and undeserved favour.

Yup.  I definitely like Indonesia.


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