the mystery of the Indo people.

Life in Indonesia

We have now spent a month in the wiles of Indonesia. I have made the comment that the countries of the South Pacific were all Lala Land dream like paradise. Here the dream shifts to a new reality. This is a land of harsh reality ,the real 3rd world deal and this is the land were your preconceived concepts leave you very fast.

This is one of the “poorest” countries in the world. No outside government supplements life here as in the South Pacific and the lack of a sound economic base is clear. The people live on a subsistence gathering of food which does not work well in a very over populated area. They have fished out most of the areas we have seen, sometimes using methods, such as dynamiting and chemically poisoning the reefs, which leave huge areas sterile for generations to come.

With mass poverty and the “one day away from starving” subsistence fishing you would think the people here would be very stressed and unhappy. One would think the people would be very criminally inclined, eager to steel. The natural conclusion would be that they would look at wealthy foreigners with distain and would take all they can from us.

Add to this the cultural and religious canyon that usually separates Muslim from western worlds and the image gets worse. This should be the land that interaction with the locals is rare and often unpleasant.

Well folks, think again. All the above is true but no one seems to have told the Indonesians! The Indonesian people are the warmest, friendliest and most generous people we have seen. Bright smiles meet us everywhere. They love to show us their culture and share in their lives openly. They sell us goods at very low prices, yes we probably pay a bit more than a local would but we should. Each transaction is done in a spirit of friendship. It appears most important to them that business is done leaving all friends. Imagine that next time you go to the mall.

I have learned that the one way to measure a culture is by the look on the children’s faces. Happy kids come from happy peoples. Bright curious kids who come to you unfettered and with blossoming innocence indicate a stress free culture. We have all been blown away by the children here. Their bright smiles radiate from their beautiful brown faces. They follow us to the markets, translate proudly if they know English, share whatever it is they have and meet us on terms of honest friendship. Although poor as church mice, we see no begging or indication they want anything from us but friendship. On a more clinical note, they mostly seem to have very good teeth, a testimony to their diet.

The adults look at us much like we just stepped out of a space ship. They are very eager to share their world, traditions and culture until it comes to religion. Coming from a Christian based culture where aggressive conversion is the norm I find it curious that they not only do not seek recruits, they do not share their religious beliefs at all. This is a refreshing change from the rabid postulating bombardment expected by Christians. We are not allowed in most Mosques. Religion is simply not discussed.

We visit Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, during Ramadan. This is the holy month were they fast during daylight hours to assimilate with the poor and concentrate on spirituality. It is possible that the benevolence we experience is seasonal, like it would be visiting us at Christmas, although I doubt it. This is a more entrenched benevolence; it seems to be the base of their culture. It is also possible and more likely that this will wane as we get into more populated areas that experience more tourism, such as Bali. If that is the case I am more grateful than ever for our time in this remote area, it has shown me the quality remoteness produces.

So the big lesson all travelers soon get is take all you preconceived notions of the people you will encounter and toss them out the window. Go forth with an open mind and open heart. The most important lesson—and this coming from a guy famed for not liking kids—is to play with the children where ever you go! Play with them like no one is watching, dance with them, laugh with them, and make a fool of yourself with them. No bigger reward for your travels can be found.

2 thoughts on “the mystery of the Indo people.”

  1. That is true Indonesia. Nice to have story about my country in international blog.
    But not all people ‘re silent about our religious things (Islam).
    Last time, I had two friends from Belgium came with me to the mosque, wearing ‘rukuh’ (white praying costume) to study my religion.
    We ‘re open to share our religious information or to know what others believe too.

    Greetings from Indonesia. 🙂

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