Jakarta. Big City, busy streets and enthusiastic people. Having only been here for a month and a half, I feel that the rest of the five months pass me by in a heartbeat. A lot of things here are new for me. The culture, food, attention as a foreigner and the language (which I am working on learning).
Previously when I have gone abroad it has been for shorter periods of time and there was a lack in getting to know and really experience the area and environment. Here I have really felt a period of adjustment that keeps me on my toes and really challenges my values, knowledge and perception of how I fit in the world. Not to mention the dynamism of the globe and the vast diversity within Indonesia itself. I receive a strong sense of tradition, purpose and involvement here and have been growing into the heat of the weather, food and warmth of people.
Back in Canada, I was allowed the luxury of experimenting my livelihood, finding foods, routines and places that I enjoyed. Previously, I have travelled to different places and always imagined that I would live abroad. Both my parents immigrated to Canada in their 20s. I believe I carry a faint connection to cultural traditions and beliefs through them, though my father’s Slovak side and mother’s English side still remain largely untouched to me. Coming to Indonesia, there is not only a prominent sense of culture, but a diverse array of them as well as strong national pride and religious connections. The state philosophy of Indonesia, Pancasila, highlights five (“panca”) principles (“sila”) acting as a guide to people in Indonesia – see below:
1. Belief in the one and only God
2. Just and Civilised Humanity
3. The Unity of Indonesia
4. Democracy guided by the Inner wisdom in the unanimity out of deliberations amongst Representatives
5. Social Justice for the Whole of the People of Indonesia
Additionally, the old Javanese phrase “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (roughly translating to “Unity in Diversity”) acts as a kind of motto for Indonesia. For me this is so new. Where back home I had not given too much thought to my religious orientation and here it is a required component on identity cards, a political tool and a way of life for many. It is quite beautiful, the notion of finding union in embracing diversity.
Movement is a global and continuous phenomenon, whether of culture, peoples, capital, etc. There are constant shifts in placement and I am finding my contextual shift has fostered a movement of identity. It has been easy to become comfortable in what I know, though there has been nothing more riveting, challenging and enlightening than self-adjustment in a different context.
A great motivator for me to work abroad was to re-frame my knowledge and perspective on education. Education has felt constructed and conditional for the bulk of my schooling and I have been and am eager to broaden my understanding through the many means of learning. Every moment and every experience is one of learning. Another intern, Olvie, mentioned the importance of re-learning or unlearning in her blog (see here: https://capiblog.ca/2019/06/12/olvie-li-blog-2-rituals-relationships-restrictions/) which resonates with me. Knowledge and acceptance of colonial relations with Indigenous peoples in Canada is an vital and emerging discourse throughout the country, and I think the world, as the effects of colonial relations can be felt prominently – though vastly diverse – across the globe. Part of my learning here has been language and holding space. There are not as many noticeable amounts of tourists here in Jakarta, especially for the size of the city. So a lot of how I interact in the context is as a “bule” or foreigner. There have been many times where people ask to take pictures with me because I look different from what they are used to, which is new to me. It leaves me with a lingering feeling of uncertainty about who I am and perception of self and other. How much of my identity do I have agency over and how much is imposed on by others? Additionally, how has the imposition of identity been influential in colonial relations? With this, the dynamics are endless but important nonetheless to reflect upon and questions I find myself asking often.
In the CAPI pre-departure we discussed ethics and how ethics can diverge with opportunity. Wildly and in many moments there are ethical dilemmas for me whether it is with photography, my cultural positionally or clothing, etc. Hayley, another intern (https://capiblog.ca/2019/06/13/hayley-dwyer-blog-2-the-use-of-language/) mentioned the use of language and power inherently woven into it. As a means of expression, it is used both as a tool for connection and fostering understanding between individuals.
There are a plurality of Languages within Indonesia from Javanese, Sunda, Malay and so on, though the generalised dialect is Bahasa Indonesia (Language Indonesia). I have been making some progress in learning Bahasa, though since I have started work the it has slowed. People are lovely here and excited to speak and bear with my basic words but there is definitely a language barrier as I still have a long way to go! I am lucky as my co-workers have exceptional english and to live with Maeve, whom I am learning a lot from in the realm of language fluency. For me it has been a challenge to have somewhat restricted engagement with people in my neighbourhood as conversation limited but I am on the journey to learning more and looking forward to doing so.
“Terima Kasih” – “Receive Love”, is the Bahasa Indonesia equivalent of “Thank you.” Perhaps I use it too often due to my lack in vocabulary, though never in-genuinely as I have really found kindness and heart in many of my interactions thus far. “Sama-Sama” – Same-Same/Equal is one of the responses used to Terima Kasih. To give love, accept it and return the same. Yes very simple, straight forward but what beautiful and personal way to interact. Language is interesting as comparing this to what we say in Canada, Thank you and you are welcome, feels transactional – though we all share love as part of the human experience.
I am curious, challenged and grateful for the opportunity to be here. There is a lot to learn, see and understand – more to share and more to come.