Thursday, May 24, 2012

International Cliche

My translator is heart broken.

Why is this blog worthy? Where does it fit in with the expose of the world we live in? Why is this a "Cliche"?

First allow me to divulge what it is not. Its not obvious. Not for Erdian.

On glance and even during conversation, one would imagine that, like most Indonesians, Erdian is the happiest soul on the planet without a care in the world. His smile is infectious and he has an unteachable vivaciousness about life.
Besides my co-worker from the States, I spend most of my time with this happy islander and believe me, he is no where near the hands deep in pockets, head bowed, frowny, kickin rocks guy that I found out he could be right now, if he were more American.

Over breakfast the other day I engaged Erdian in the conversation I have had with different people all over the world. Questions about how they live, whats the average income, what their social circles look like, are they in love, etc. Questions that would make an American raise their eyebrows in suspicion are met with gusto  over the rest of the world as most people are very excited that a foreigner wants to learn about their life.

That's when Erdian told me that just 4 months ago his girlfriend of 4 year,s that he was supposed to marry, left him for another man and moved home to Singapore. OUCH! Four months wouldn't even be enough time for most of us to get out of bed.
Keep in mind that we are dealing with a culture that literally doesn't say "he is not married". They say "he is not married YET." Marriage is what Indonesians do. Please leave a little room for my naive-ness as I have found that I gravitate to scenarios that directly relate to me rather than those that do not. I know quite well that there are 35 year old clubbers here...I have met them. I assume they all want to be married like me....its the best. But most of the population do look for a spouse, then a job in that order.

So Erdian had no details on the subject and I didn't press, for when he spoke about her was the only time he hasn't smiled and his eyes began to distance themselves from the table as they looked within at his shattered chest. All that matters is she left, and he is desperate to find a wife. He thought he had it figured out, and now at age 34 he was being forced to start over.

This depiction of loss was the same story I have heard from countless friends at home, his face had the same look that I have seen on many Americans, his pain was all too familiar of a pain that I have tasted myself.

Erdians heartbreak is not Indonesian. It is not American. It is too real to have a geographic attribute. It is however cliche-Love (and loss) is an International Language

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Indonesia is Like.....Well...Indonesia

So I stepped off the plane expecting that smell. Not a bad smell mind you, just "that smell". It didn't come.
I stepped out of the airport listening for the horns. The horns that once never stopped have never started here.
I looked for the men peeing on walls and piles of burning trash. They aren't here either.

This search without end was the product of my mind being consumed with comparative analysis. Unbeknownst to me I was looking for India in was not to be, and most notably, shouldn't be.

There are parallels that exist everywhere I go, and that stands to reason, as we cater medical attention to specific demographic, but the lesson here has been let one country keep it's awesome identity while I figure out the unique one currently being offered. Don't try to fit an Indonesian peg into an Indian hole.

Jakarta is tropical! allow me to repeat that....Jakarta is tropical. Worth repeating in the sense that there are attributes that come with a tropical environment, no matter where you are, that are to be found in every specific nuance of the geographic local.
Everything is green and growing. Even the airport had "living walls" of live plants inside. This concept brings the benefits of "Gods Lungs" inside and notably make a difference.
 Walls of humidity do wonders for the skin and the locals (no matter which class) have skin as if they were all just recently hatched.
There is a general haze over the city, but not a direct product of burning garbage or lack of smog laws. The haze seems to be a gentle reminder that at any moment the sky's could open up and wash the streets. And the sky's they do! Sometimes this afternoon street washing gets carried away and creates feet of water running through traffic in a moments time with no warning. With "chubby rain" (no rain likes to be called fat) comes the other tropical accoutrement of lightning and thunder. Sometimes too far away to receive the thunder at all, other times so directly overhead that the ice (which is safe to consume and abundant) will rattle in your glass.
But the number one attribute that comes with being tropical seems to be happiness. Everybody here is happy, and not that "yeah, yeah I'm fine type of happy, but that "see that guys the guy across the him too, but I mean the other guy" type of happy.
It seems to me that anytime I am in a tropical place there is a vacation switch flipped in my physchi. Time is a little slower, food tastes a little better, there seems to be the need to having a bathing suit on the ready, and people are way more laid back. Perhaps this is a philosophy that lives even in the locals.

Everybody here wants to help you, but not in a pushy way. They don't mind if you take their picture and even though there is a larger language barrier here than anywhere I have ever been, I have communicated with more people through universal creative gestures. Present at all exchanges is that "smile" I was talking about. Ear-to-ear and contagious. Nobody on the street seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere as the line between work and play are blurred. Just ask the guy today sitting on his tractor in a hard hat and bare feet smoking a cigarette.

I get small pieces of my soul gifted to me everywhere I go. Pieces that make up the collage that is me and will become me. If I am to imagine that these pieces represent physical places on my body, then I have no doubt that Jakarta is gifting me my smile.