Monday, November 19, 2012

US Election Jakarta Style

The US election has been quite a big topic of conversation here in Indonesia! Ever since I arrived here it has been one of the primary things I’m asked about whenever I meet new people. Indonesians seem to be very interested in both sides of the election, though I must say the majority of the people here stand behind President Obama who people in Jakarta consider as family because he lived here for several years. The Indonesian people are great like that; people who live in Indonesia for any period of time quickly become part of the cultural familial bond. On the day of the election I was invited to attend an event that the US Embassy was hosting in downtown Jakarta to watch the election results as well as invite Indonesians to learn about the US election process. Due to the 12 hour or so time difference the event started at 8:00 AM, meaning that we had to get up at about 5.00 to be able to travel the 25 kilometres from Depok to Downtown Jakarta in time. Needless to say, in Jakarta there is always traffic, especially in the morning. After our long winding journey through the streets of Jakarta and a few minutes of being lost in the vastness that is the Grand Indonesia Mall we finally arrived at our destination! The first steps into the room though what may be the largest doors I have ever seen were rather overwhelming! There were large projector screens streaming live feed from New in the US and Poll results from online, a myriad of booths set up with information about the election as well as the US Electoral system in general, large buffets of truly American breakfast food and a sea of people milling about it all! We were soon greeted by AFS volunteers and staff in attendance and I was informed I would be helping in a booth to explain about the US voting process to people and help manage the mock vote we were having. It was a wonderful time explaining the process and I got to talk to a huge amount of varied people from Professors, Students, Press, Embassy staff, Businessmen, and everyone else in between.  The atmosphere in the room was very vibrant and excited and there was much multilingual discussion about how the results of the states would turn out, as there was no real mystery as to how our mock vote would. Aside from our splendid little election there were many other goings on including a speech from Ambassador Marciel and a live stream from a reporter in the US. After his speech I was able to meet Ambassador Marciel and a few other embassy officials and have a brief conversation about Indonesia and YES. As is usual with Embassy staff and just the general populace of Indonesia all were extremely welcoming and very interesting to talk with! As the morning boiled on more and more results came in and there was a good deal of excitement. When the west coast’s polls closed and the results finally arrived there was much cheering and activity and even a balloon drop! It was indeed one of the most amazing events I have ever been to, and it definitely made my first actual presidential election one that I will always remember.

Everyone Partying it up Election Style!

Us with Ambassador Marciel and a few other fun folk!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Brief Commentary

Apa yang seharusnya gue tulis? -or- What should I write about? (Informally of course)

Thus was the quandary I posed to my fellow classmates as I sat in what was supposed to be PLH, or Environmental Science. Instead of being Environmental Science class it was "Jam Kosong", or when the teacher just doesn't end up coming to the room for class. This happens semi frequently here, but today was different as it happened with five out of our twelve 45 minute blocks. this is in addition to our 20 minute morning/lunch and 40 min prayer break at noon mind you. So needless to say, there has been much relaxing, home work, musik, and, wondering what to do with our time. This is actual a pretty accurate representation of the wonderfully laid back atmosphere that is school and Indonesians in general. Whenever there isn't class going on, or some intensive project the students seem to fan out. Often they'll be found eating in the canteen, playing futsal or basket ball with friends, gathered around a guitar playing US popular or Indonesian folk music (The importance of musik in indonesia, everyone is great at singing by the way, and the influence of US culture here are quite a post in themselves.), or just talking and relaxing. The Indonesian concept of space, time, and what being busy is are very different than the Amerikan perspective. Likewise the amount of control and supervision put over students very very different. In school in the US, there is a constant progression forward. If you're not in a class, you're in transit to the next, if you're in a class you're waiting for the bell to ring to move to the next class, and so on and so forth until you can FINALLY(in many peoples eyes) leave at the end of the day. Here there is no such rush. For one, students don't move classes but stay in one class all day with the same 30 or so students while the teachers come to the classes. This leads to a much less hectic packing and moving and because of it bells mean little. Often classes will run or begin 10-15 minutes late and no thought is given to it. Likewise, when the end of the day comes there is no rush to leave at all! Students stay at school to do home work, extracurriculars, eat, or just hang out often until 6 or 7 PM ( and school ends at 3.30). It is often very common for students to spend most of their weekend at school for student activities, some congregate and event, or once again just to hang out with friends. School is a hub and place to gather and congregate, and all of this is without teacher supervision. there is practically no supervision here with all the clubs being student run, all the events by student committees. For the week of the student sports competitions, I don't recall seeing one at all actually.  Everyone is pretty self controlling and there is a strong almost familial atmosphere among classes and the school as a general whole which creates a very relaxing atmosphere. My first few weeks here I would habitually stand up at the end of the day get my things and put my backpack on. My friends in class always looked at me and said the equivalent of, you're heading home already?? Whats the rush?", to which I would say no, just habits from the US and take it off. It rather reminded me of wise old TreeBeard from the lord of the rings talking to his hasty little hobbits (I rather like the thought of that.).  But between the semi-scheduled day and the language barrier, it is rather confusing as to what in the world is going on sometimes. It also doesn't help that I've been raised in the very different westernized world of the US to think and act a different way for the past 18 years. There are many such differences between life and culture here and in the US and that is indeed my most favorite thing about my exchange so far. It's always the small most unexpected differences that surprise me. For example the idea that it is culturally impolite and unheard of to eat while standing and the concept that the right side of the body is more correct. These are but a taste of the complete cultural differences which have been formed over hundreds of years by the distinctly different roots and influences of the two nations.What a fascinatingly complex matter. I often find it extremely difficult to look at things from a neutral standpoint as my observations always having a seemingly American perspective. After all as I said before, I have been raised in the United States my entire life so this is bound to happen. But I try not to. Whenever I find myself saying to myself, In America that would be such and such..., or when I find myself trying to translate English sayings and mannerisms, I have to stop myself. If one wishes to translate and absorb a language and culture properly, I feel it must be done as cleanly as possible without all that baggage of previous perspectives. And that is what I am trying to do. To change my perspective on the world and then be able to observe from both points of view in a fantastic mix of learnings. I'll be honest, it's quite difficult a good deal of the time. But no one said that being an exchange student was a walk in the park now did they! Quite the contrary if I remember all our sessions correctly. But it is indeed a wonderful time, a time for new friends and family, life experiences and adventures, and just maybe, if we work very hard, a bit of perspective.

Sorry about the shortness/blandness/Thoughtfulness of this post that arose from having no classes all day. I assure You the next post I write will actually be fantastically fun, with pictures(!), and maybe some food(!) and adventures! Until then enjoy.

"Bapak mau beli?"  Places that sell goats and cows pop up everywhere during Idul Adha. This one just happened to be where I normally walk on the way to school. How wonderful! It was definitely depressing to see all the empty stalls after the holiday, but atleast it went to a splendid usage.

A daily habit

Grilled Corn and Hot Tea, Indonesian Folk Songs, Rain and Cool Air, Bamboo Huts, And An Awe Inspiring Seemingly Endless View Of Tea Plantations And Ancient Forested Hill Tops. A Truly Perfect Moment.