Halo dari sisi lain dunia!

Two months into my placement and it feels like a whirlwind! I have had the unbelievable fortune of building 16 beautiful new friendships with strong, independent, and thoughtful young women from all over Indonesia, brought to Melbourne in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams.

With these relationships, I have had my horizons expanded. I have heard stories of lives lived very differently from my own, shared in great fits of laughter, and shared in silence and sadness, too. Each has been incredibly patient, open, and honest with me as we tackle some challenging topics together. There are many spectacular aspects of Indonesian culture and people, but this research, with its focus on gender and sexuality, does challenge my participants, asking them to open up about aspects of their lives that are often considered taboo to talk about. At the same time, it has been amazing to see what conversations emerge when the space is created for women to express themselves and explore their perspectives. To openly criticize and question gendered constructions and conventions that exist most saliently in their lives.

Its amazing to think that only six weeks ago, when I submitted my last blog, I had conducted only one interview. I remember the nerves, but now I can’t imagine feeling that anxious again. Every interview makes me so excited—after all, with each interview, I have spent another two hours getting to know someone in a way I never imagined. Despite the formalities, I am happy to say that each interview has felt like a journey with a friend, and the women I am working with have created the space for me to open my mind, think differently, and look at the world through their eyes. Additionally, these women have brought me into their lives and shown me generosity and endless entertainment. This ‘participant observation’ has given me a glimpse into their personalities, their daily activities, their families and their friends, in a way that makes me feel powerfully connected to them. Its always amazing, making new friends! Just one of the many perks of anthropological research of this nature, and something I am excited to be a part of.

I have also joined AIYA, the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association, and continue to participate in their weekly language exchanges; I wish I could say my Bahasa was rapidly improving, but I think I am going to need a lot more intensive practice!

Now, with over 60 hours of interviews and 15 hours of participant observation under my belt, my biggest anxiety is trying to navigate how to do the data justice in a thesis. After a month and a half of speaking to these women, hearing their stories and recording all of this information, I can’t imagine ever being able to really get into the nitty gritty of all that has become important in 100 double-spaced pages, and I know I have my work cut out for me when I return to Victoria.

However, the research process is never an easy one, and this experience, too, has been laced with its own sets of challenges. As I mentioned in my last post, and despite its necessity in achieving and ensuring respectful, ethical research, the actual process of receiving formal ethics approval took more time than expected. With the delay, I have found myself struggling to make up for lost time because the semester here ended in late May. Exam period took place the first few weeks of June, and most, almost all, of my participants have gone home for the break. Trying to orchestrate everything during this busy time for my participants has definitely come as a challenging surprise. Luckily, everyone has been so patient and cooperative, dedicating a great deal of their own time to helping me.

Moving forward, I have just one more month to get in more participant interviews and observation activities, as many expert interviews as possible, and enjoy the winter break with the community that remains here!

Semoga beruntung!