1-25 Peace Corps Indonesia

Getting from the bus stop to his house.  (Jason is in front.)

While in Indonesia, we spent a night at another PCV’s site. While we were visiting, he had another PCV visiting as well. The four of us stayed up way too late chatting about life in Peace Corps, how similar and different our lives were and all the food we missed eating.

Let’s start with some differences. The most obvious was his housing. He lived in a house with a family, in which they lived downstairs and he lived on the second floor. Please note: there was a second floor. The house had indoor plumbing, a gas stove, running water, electricity, glass windows and internet. He was required to give a portion of his living allowance to his family each month, for which in return they fed him and payed the bills.

He worked in a school about half an hour away and biked to and from work each day. He had a set schedule at school which had him there every day for most of the day.

Visiting the nearest town was a 30 minute bike ride and a 15 minute bus ride away. Getting to the capital and the PC office was a 30 minute bike ride and a 4 hour bus ride. The whole thing could be accomplished for less than $20.

Shot from the second floor.  Look at all the buildings!

And that’s about where the differences stopped.

When we went for a walk, we got a lot of “tourist” comments. Things like “You from?” shouted from behind us, (meaning “Where are you from?” and often used as a greeting/conversation started with outsiders). Because, you know, waiting until someone walks completely past you is a good time to start a conversation with them.

We bumped into one of his students on the road. Not like we were walking someplace that the PCV was well-known and ran into someone he knows from there. No, we were in an area the PCV had never visited in his town. The student immediately recognized the PCV and stopped to say hi. They chatted for five minutes before we moved on.

We shared a common sense of disbelief, frustration and confusion over some of the local customs. Even though the cultures are wildly different, the emotional response of being outside your culture is the same. We swapped a ton of stories about the intensity of cultural activities, everything from funerals to butchering animals to church holidays.

Transport, fun in every country.  Also, bananas seem to be rampant.

The laid back attitude that comes from an overwhelming amount of confusion. Its not that we don’t want to know what going on, its that we’ve accepted that we might never know what’s going on. So instead, we just roll with it. Now is time to butcher a pig? Ok. Now is time to take a nap in the middle of the floor? Ok. Now is time to take off shoes and pray in the temple? Ok. Now is time to teach class? Ok. Now is time to wait for the bus? We’re still waiting for the bus? You mean the bus isn’t coming today? Ok.

Overall, it was striking how our lives paralleled theirs. Though the culture and trappings of life are different, the things we took away from Peace Corps were very much the same. Our attitudes, our hopes for our communities and our love for our country were all similar.

The other major theme of similarity? TexMex is amazing and how have other places not caught on?

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